“…if you want trouble again in the north play that game. It’s a dangerous game”

There’s been some focus on the comments at the weekend by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern warning about any attempt to “force” a border poll in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.  His remarks are placed in a wider context by the fuller quote in the Belfast Telegraph.

Speaking on Newstalk radio, the former Irish prime minister said: “The idea of a border poll… was put there when when I was conceding Articles two and three of the constitution and we were giving up the territorial right of the north and I wanted to copper-fasten in that if the day came where on the principle of consent people in the north – of all traditions – voted for a united Ireland then we would have agreement on that.

“It was not for some kind of sectarian vote or a day that the nationalists and Republicans could outvote the unionists and loyalists… if you want trouble again in the north play that game. It’s a dangerous game,”  he said.

It’s a more forceful iteration of his comments in 2008, on the prospect of a united Ireland under a single administration of government.

“That can only happen in the long term future. How long that will be I don’t know. If it is done by any means of coercion, or divisiveness, or threats, it will never happen. We’ll stay at a very peaceful Ireland and I think time will be the healer providing people, in a dedicated way, work for the better good of everyone on the island.

If it doesn’t prove possible, then it stays the way it is under the Good Friday Agreement, and people will just have to be tolerant of that if it’s not possible to bring it any further.”

Comments that were subsequently echoed in 2010 by his successor, Brian Cowen,

“The ultimate destination of any political project is a matter of time working itself out. Therefore the destination is not the thing to be talking about. That will be for other people to decide in another time maybe,” he told the latest issue of the Journal of Cross-Border Studies in Ireland.

Setting out his vision of economic co-operation between the two parts of Ireland in the era of the Belfast and St Andrews agreements, he said: “We would be working the agreements we have, recognising the legitimacy of our respective traditions – one loyal to Britain, the other looking to Irish unity as a legitimate objective, but one that will only be pursued peacefully by common consent.

“Therefore there would be no threatening, exclusivist political philosophy which would make people defensive or insular or non co-operative.

“The genius of all of these agreements is that we are all on a common journey together where we have not decided on the destination. The problem with our ideologies in the past was that we had this idea about where we were going but we had no idea how anyone was going to come with us on the journey.

“We have now all decided: let’s go on a journey and forget about the destination – the destination isn’t really important in that respect. We can all work for what it is we would like ideally to see, but this is not something that can be forced or imposed upon people on either side of the island,” the Taoiseach said.

As I noted in both those posts, the reference point is the poet Michael Longley

“peace is the absence of war: the opposite of war is custom, customs, and civilization.”

Like Heaney’s still-missing “tidal wave of justice”, what we have seen from the main political parties in Northern Ireland over recent years may be a lauding of the absence of war, but not a promotion of its opposite – a process that suits the repeated, and increasingly frequent, campaigns to elect “tribal tribunes” from both sides…

 

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  • Marcus Orr

    Oh please – the orange order is dying out, and not since yesterday. Less than 10% of all protestants in NI are now members of the OO. I remember back in my university days, over 20 years ago, me and all my mates laughed ourselves stupid at the OO. Why do you have to try to tack that straw man on me ?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Because it seems that a lot of posters on this site are warning that if there were to be a border poll which succeeded, then there are un-named ‘dangers’ involved in going ahead with unification. These implied ‘dangers’ are that there will be organised violence on the part of the unionist community. Are you going to laugh yourself stupid at such unionist violence too, or can you assure us that such values, as embodied by the OO are finally dead?

  • Marcus Orr

    No, I assure you that I’ll accept any result of a border poll, and if it’s 50,01%-49,99% for a united Ireland I’ll respect the result.
    The problem is the Belfast Agreement in 1998 itself, which rewarded terrorism (prisoner release of loyalist and republican criminals) and complete withdrawal and surrender of my (the) British Govt. Given that terrorism worked very well nicely for Sinn Féin/IRA (thank you Billy Clinton) back in 1998, who’s to say what those loyalist criminals may think after a border poll…terrorism pays after all – they’ve seen that.

  • Hugh Davison

    In numbers 4.25% self-identifying in the last census, but:
    http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/rite-reason-the-republic-is-now-a-warm-place-for-protestants-1.2388901
    Worth a read.

  • Hugh Davison

    Apples and Oranges?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    What I don’t understand is your touching attachment to the British Government. They have no such attachment to your community, and will ditch you at the first convenient opportunity. Why not face reality and work now for a space in a united Ireland? Britishness will soon be a non-existent brand, as Scotland shows every sign of leaving once the full negativity of Brexit becomes apparent. You can’t keep on harping back to past agreements as an excuse not to move forward.

  • Marcus Orr

    I don’t have any touching attachment to the British Govt. as such. Successive British Govts. have given up on the population in Northern Ireland, under pressure from a hostile US govt. (Billy Clinton under pressure to thugs like Ted Kennedy etc. to get the Irish -American vote), and under pressure from the understandable personal British politican fear of what happens to British politicians for support of the British state in N. Ireland (they tended to get murdered by the IRA, see Airey Neave or Iain Gow).
    The ditching of NI already happened, that was in 1998 in the Belfast Agreement. I have no problem with moving forward and yes, my own recommendation to my camp, the unionists, is to be wake up, smell the coffee, call for the border poll now this year (it will be won comfortably in 2017 by the unionists, future demographics suggest otherwise in ten or 15 years), and then use the 7 years remaining under GFA in which Sinn Féin cannot bleat every week about holding a border poll to make good contacts with the other parties in the Republic. The only thing left for us to do is to negotiate some safeguards to our identity and culture in the future coming United Ireland, to ensure that the loyalists don’t recommence their violence, and to make to ensure that Sinn Féin/IRA never gain control of a future all Ireland govt.

  • Starviking

    You seem to want an eternally divided society. I would prefer reconcilliation and an end to the eternal point-scoring that occurs here.

  • Starviking

    So hate is OK? Sectarian attacks on people are fine?

  • Starviking

    Sure these thing can happen. They should, however, be opposed, and the people who do such acts should have the full force of the law upon them.

    Far too many posters here shrug their shoulders, and urge acceptance of such a situation. When the boot is on the other foot though…

  • Starviking

    And what if they don’t want to move?

  • Starviking

    These were around the late 90s, early 2000s. Next time I’m in that neck of the woods I’ll enquire as to the current situation.

  • Starviking

    When there was no border, there was antagonism. I do not think your analysis is correct.

  • file

    Well that would be nice. How will we do it? What about if you give it up first, then I will give it up, and then we will try to attract recruits? The first rule about dealing with the past club is, you cannot talk about the past. The second rule of dealing with past club is, YOU CANNOT TALK ABOUT THE FIRST RULE. The third rule of dealing with the past club is: we all did it, whether by commission or omission: so if I forgive you will you forgive me? The fourth rule of dealing with the past club is, there is no fourth rule.

  • Skibo

    Before the border, there was rule from Westminster. What are Loyalists going to fight for? If a border poll votes for reunification then GB does not want us back. Do they not believe in democracy?

  • Tochais Siorai

    oirish?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Your commitment to a united Ireland Is somewhat thrown into doubt by your equal commitment to the phrase “Sinn Fein/IRA”, which features in other replies by you. This insistence on equating the past history to the present situation implies a desire to smear the party by concentrating on it’s history. That is not conducive to reconciliation, or the integration of unionism into a united Ireland.

  • Marcus Orr

    Has there been a historical break between Sinn Féin and the IRA ? Russia distanced itself from historical sovietic communism. Marine Le Pen distanced herself from her father’s holocaust denial comments. Has Sinn Féin distanced itself in any way from the IRA’s terrorism 1969-98 ?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    That’s not the point. By harping on at this connection you are merely showing that you are not reconciled to accepting things as they are, but want to smear the other side to enhance your own supposed moral superiority. That’s what it all comes back to with unionism – superiority. Well, enjoy it while you can.

  • Marcus Orr

    Of course it’s the point. Are Sinn Féin a political party that disavows the terrorism or not ? We know the answer to that question.
    To say that unionism is somehow superior is a weird and silly notion, political wishes like nationalism or unionism are not in any way superior or inferior to each other. And I never suggested they were. What a weird idea that because I ask of the position of Sinn Féin on terrorism 1969-98 you should think that’s a “smear”. It’s like saying I would be “smearing Jean-Marie Le Pen for suggesting in 1996 that the holocaust didn’t happen. But, er, he did do that.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Well, cling on to your” weird and silly” unionism. It’s a doctrine for those with terminal insecurity, who are unable to reach out in goodwill to their fellow islanders. You can either drag your feet unwillingly into the 21st century and suffer accordingly, or grasp your opportunities with both hands. Unfortunately unionism has always show itself to be only able to grasp at short sighted and selfish goals, and I expect no change. Your posts just confirm my impression.

  • Marcus Orr

    “Well, cling on to your” weird and silly” unionism”

    Are you able to follow a train of thought, or not ? I said to say that unionism is superior is weird and silly.

    You got out of that “weird and silly unionism” !?!

    “It’s a doctrine for those with terminal insecurity”
    Yeah, always the first way to discredit your discussion partner is to label their “doctrines” as some kind of insecure pathology. It’s called silly name calling, the classic ad homimem attack on someone you don’t agree but can’t bother debating in a reasonable manner.

  • Marcus Orr

    “Given that terrorism worked very well nicely for Sinn Féin/IRA (thank you Billy Clinton) back in 1998”
    That is what I said – now, do you agree, or disagree with me, that Sinn Féin where the political wing of the IRA in 1998 ? What part of my statement is not factual ? (Try not to respond with another personal smear).

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Well, stick to my point then. To continually use the phrase Sinn Fein/IRA is no more helpful than to keep repeating DUP/ plus whatever Loyalist gang name fits best. As I said you are merely trying to establish a moral superiority by harping on at this. Try to deal with this point: how does this phrase and the harping on about the previous connection between the IRA and Sinn Fein help the process of integration and reconciliation, assuming you want that to proceed?

    As for the ‘superiority’ – surely you know the history of unionism and NI. It was built on Protestant and Unionist “superiority” over the Catholic population.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Look, you can go on and on about supposed IRA murders, and Republicans can go on and on about Loyalist and British Army murders. But this clinging to past wrongs is not leading to any sort of progress. All this self-righteousness is just an evasion of progress, whichever side it comes from. Do you want to live in peace with everyone else in Ireland, or do you want to hang on to your self-proclaimed moral superiority, which is mirrored by those with opposite claims? Surely you can see how stultifying and frankly, stupid these sorts of attitudes are?

    As for your defence of the DUP, I have little knowledge of the ins and out of the DUP, but I have seen comments here linking them to loyalist gangs, and I see no convincing reason as to why this should not be true.

  • Marcus Orr

    “As for your defence of the DUP, I have little knowledge of the ins and out of the DUP, but I have seen comments here linking them to loyalist gangs, and I see no convincing reason as to why this should not be true.”
    Wow, so unconcerned with the issue of truth, that he sees comments on a website and takes them to be the truth. Well if that’s the way anyone tries to determine truth, God help us all.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Deal with the main point. Or are you happy just to evade it, as before?

  • Marcus Orr

    I’ve dealt with it 50 times already. Pointing out facts (such that SDLP, DUP and UUP were not the political wings of a terrorist organisation, and so have no explaining to do on that regard) does not work with you, because you are a broken down record – you keep coming back with “self-righteousness” for pointing out facts.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    If you think you have actually dealt with my point you are even more deluded than you seemed to be at first. You have NOT answered the question of why it is helpful to keep on about past wrongs, while your opponents are doing the same thing. You seem to think that your grievances are somehow better and more real than other people’s and should be given priority. This is what we’ve been hearing from unionists for the past hundred years. If anyone is playing a broken record, I think it’s you. There is no point in continuing this discussion if you are continually just going to evade the essence of the matter. Bye.

  • Marcus Orr

    I do not have any grievances with any wrongs. I just pointed out 1 fact: that there is one party in Northern Ireland which has never changed its commitment and clear support for its past in supporting, and being the political wing of, terrorism.
    You evade this point by calling me a deluded believer in my own “moral superiority”. What a laugh. I abstained from voting for GFA for one reason only, because under its terms the loyalist murderer Michael Stone was released – he later went on (in 2006) to attempt murder again. I have no support for the loyalists.
    You are skirting and hiding from the issue, and the funny thing is, we both know it.