Pressure on Sinn Fein to return to the Assembly was the message from the Dublin establishment at the Magill

As the John Hewitt gets under way today, the summer school season had already been launched in Glenties. I spent a few days in the area the previous week so I missed out on this year’s Magill summer school which was as usual these days, highly political. On Brexit you can have  too much of a good thing especially when Narin strand and Nancy’s bar down the road in Ardara are beckoning. The School will publish speakers’ papers shortly but the Irish Times covered the sessions pretty well.

My impressions of establishment Irish opinion on Brexit are those of abiding and unrelieved frustration with the UK over the whole idea and pessimism over the outcome, combined with a sense of near- impotence as Irish interests are in the hands of the Commission, as expressed by former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes and others.  For the sake of balance and  an opportunity for dialogue,  the conference organisers  might have cast an English Brexiteer such as former NI secretary Owen Paterson and an leading academic like Anand Menon of UK in a Changing Europe, to give a closer critique of the evolving British position.

On the  Stormont stand-off, voices were united in putting pressure on Sinn Fein, apart of course from the two SF speakers . I didn’t notice any contribution from Fianna Fail, although the latest FF position will give SF little cause for comfort.

The  consensual southern position was summed up magisterially by the ex- head of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

 Sean Donlon said Sinn Féin’s refusal to take its seven seats at Westminster was based on “impenetrably obscurantist and unintelligible” arguments.

Mr Donlon said that Sinn Féin has a “strong mandate and they can afford to be both brave and generous”. He said the party’s refusal to take its seats was based on an “obscure philosophical objection”.

This is their moment and I hope they use it.

Mr Donlon referred to how former SDLP leader, the late Gerry Fitt, succeeded as MP for West Belfast in “getting Northern Ireland back on the Westminster agenda” and of the role of former SDLP deputy first minister Seamus Mallon in advocating the interests of nationalists.

He added that abstentionism was not serving the interests of Northern Ireland and was “doing nothing to unlock unionist” opposition to a united Ireland. “Take your seats at Westminster,” Mr Donlon urged Sinn Féin.

He also said the party should tone down its commemoration of dead IRA members, repeating that such displays did not assist in unlocking unionist opposition to a united Ireland.

“Not all of us want to be reminded of the atrocities of 30 years of troubles. And if that is our view as nationalists how do you think unionists and other victims of the Troubles must feel when they see these commemorations and hear senior Sinn Féin people speak as they speak,” he said.

 

Mr Donlon also was critical of Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald, describing the current period as the “endgame” for partition. “Does she ever stop to think about unionist consent?” he asked.

“Harping on about the end of partition without any reference to consent…does not help to unlock unionists,” he said.

Mr Donlon also referred to the notion of unification “happening by numbers” which he said was “neither desirable nor is it achievable”.

“There is no attraction and no prospect, Brexit or otherwise, of unity without consent. Numbers ultimately will not decide the issue.”

Mr Donlon further called on Sinn Féin not to “weaponise” the Irish language. He said brought up in an Irish speaking household he shared the party’s commitment to Irish but added that “compulsion and legislation was not a total success in our jurisdiction.

“In the Northern Ireland context nothing is more important than the healing of the divisions. That is something that cannot happen without Sinn Féin taking a huge jump and putting flesh on Gerry Adams’s fine words. Sinn Féin is needed at Westminster and is needed in a devolved government in Northern Ireland. The time is now.

Dáithí Ó Ceallaigh, former ambassador to London, said he feared for the future in relation to the political stalemate in Northern Ireland. “The two communities are much further apart than they have been for many years,” he said.

He lamented the absence of leadership from the likes of Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, the “sort of people who would reach out to other community” over the past 10 years.

There was  a sharp contrast on the possible prospects for unity  as a result of Brexit between  Sinn Fein and the SDLP

 Sinn Féin Donegal TD Pearse Doherty

  “Just as Brexit quickly entered into our vocabulary today, it’s not beyond all probability to believe that, at its ultimate conclusion and as the term slowly begins to fade from popular usage, this demise will coincide with the emergence of a new language.

“A language which seeks to tear down the Border, to build bridges, not walls: a language of hope rather than one of fear,

Whereas from SDLP leader Colum Eastwood…  “ Brexit is one of the most serious issues to confront this island since partition, yet the absence of our institutions means that we have been left voiceless,” he added.

Mr Eastwood said Ireland must remain immovable on the “bottom line” demand that there can be no hardening of the Border in Ireland. “The job ahead is to ensure that distant memories do not become new realities.”

“In truth, the main effect of the imposition of a hardened Border in Ireland would rip up and rip apart what has become the familiar pattern of life from Derry to Dundalk,” he said.

“It would bring a shuddering halt to the familiar, which we have all been living with since the beginning days of the peace process/2

The sole unionist speaker at Magill, Edwin Poots of the DUP made a constructive contribution which I find difficult to disagree with:

“There is little doubt that the personal willingness of someone like Martin McGuinness to seek that agreement played a very positive role on many occasions,” he said.

“The theory that we may not be in the political difficulties that are currently being experienced had Martin McGuinness still been present is one that has been put forward by a number of people, including my former party leader Peter Robinson, ” Mr Poots added. “It is not a theory that I find myself able to disagree very substantially with.

Mr Poots said that he was “personally fed up” at hearing the DUP parodied as being opposed to other cultures just because it says that its priorities at this time should be health, education, jobs and Brexit.

“Such criticism is especially irritating when it emanates from the mouths of members of a political party which means ‘Ourselves Alone’ and is utterly lacking in any understanding of what is at the ideological core of Protestants and unionists in Northern Ireland.”

n the Irish language, the main issue holding up agreement between the DUP and Sinn Féin, Mr Poots said that in Co Donegal, unlike in Northern Ireland, the language was not politicised.

“Donegal is a county where the Irish language is very much alive. In this part of the world the Irish language is everything it ought to be. It isn’t threatening. It isn’t politicised. It isn’t used to exclude others. And it isn’t used as a weapon in a cultural war. It’s just a natural, normal part of everyday life.”

Mr Poots said that “anyone who speaks and loves the Irish language is as much a part of Northern Ireland life as a collaret-wearing Orangeman”.

“I want them to feel at home and feel respected and part of society,” he added. “What my party opposes is the introduction of Irish-language legislation that is more about developing a sense of national identity than it is about supporting the language itself.”

Concluding his speech, Mr Poots quoted an Irish proverb, “Maireann an chraobh ar an bhfál ach ní mhaireann an lámh do chuir,” or “the branch lives on the hedge though the hand that planted it be dead”.

“It’s an old Irish saying reminding us of our mortality and that our actions today will live long after we are gone. May we work together both north-south and east-west to ensure the best for all these British Isles,” he said.

Gaeltacht minister and Donegal Fine Gael TD  Joe McHugh who shared  a platform  with  DUP Assembly member Edwin Poots, said the Irish language which , one of the key issues holding up restoration of the Northern Executive, was not a threat.

“The sooner the institutions in Northern Ireland are re-instated, the better for everyone on this island. Relationship-building continues across a wide variety of areas but we need to continue it on the political front too,” he said.

“I know our Government position is that an Irish language act in Northern Ireland should be introduced. It was agreed at the St Andrew’s talks a decade ago,” he said.

It is not a political weapon and it should not be used as one. It is the same for Ulster-Scots. The Ulster-Scots Agency has an office in this constituency in Raphoe to further promote that part of our shared heritage, particularly here in Ulster.

“I’d be happy as Minister for the Irish language in this jurisdiction to meet and talk with any unionists who have any concerns about the Irish language and reassure them that people like me who have learned to love the language have no intention of doing anything other than speak it and share it with those who want to share in it.”

Mr McHugh said the Government managed to persuade the EU of Ireland’s unique circumstances in the Brexit process.

“I want to make it absolutely clear that the priority for me as a TD for Donegal and as someone who sits at the Cabinet table as Government chief whip, that we must protect the peace process. I am very, very conscious that it remains a peace process and that we have to continue to nurture it and ensure we never go back,” he said.

“I want the invisible border to remain. Furthermore I do not want an economic or physical border, and with my colleagues we are working for the retention of the common travel area and the closest possible trading relationship to continue between North and South and between east and west across the Irish Sea,” added Mr McHugh.

 

How any of this translates into firm proposals overt the next few weeks remains to be seen. The Magill speeches  gave us no real clues.

 

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  • Zeno

    There are still plenty of areas in Belfast suffering fear and intimidation.
    The IRA did stop murdering us, but it would have been much better if they hadn’t started in the first place.
    If they deserve any credit then the same must apply to the UVF/UDA/UFF et al. And I don’t believe any of them should get any credit either.

  • Skibo

    Zeno, go back through the Cain records and you will find that the IRA did not start murdering, that was carried out by security forces. The bombing did not start with the IRA, it was the UVF in 1966.

  • Zeno

    How are you going to make up 60,000 votes in under 5 years when you only got an extra 20,000 over 20 years? Is there a nuclear strike coming that will kill all the unionist voters?

  • Zeno

    So abolishing the 11Plus achieved what exactly? You did hold it up as an achievement.
    Schools need pupils to gain funding. The more they have the higher their funding. That is why schools are amalgamating. It has nothing to do with the 11Plus.

  • Skibo

    As one goes down, the other goes up. Have faith dear boy, have faith.

  • Skibo

    The 11plus has everything to do with funding. Grammar schools are using the exams as a means to attract pupils, saying they will select the best yet accepting as many as they can.
    The CCMS and the Catholic Church see the damage the 11plus is doing to children and are using the chance to amalgamate schools into co-eds to do away with it. Can you not see that?

  • Zeno

    So as the Nationalist vote goes up 1000 a year over 5 years the Unionist vote will fall by 55,000 over the same period?
    I think you are just winding me up. You can’t really believe that.

  • Zeno

    The numbers attending Uni have increased since the 11 Plus was replaced by 5 paid exams. As I said before maybe if we had 10 paid exams they would be even higher. If the 11 Plus was doing damage to children because they might fail they now have 5 exams they can fail, yet they seem to be thriving.
    Explain that?

  • William Kinmont

    close in terms of MPs elected my point is that a significantly large portion of electorate chose to vote rejecting Westminster. Sf position is pointing that roughly half our populations only legitimate representation is in Stormont .

  • William Kinmont

    A Healy Rae Boris Johnston debate would be fun though.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    I still do not think the ROI has the security resources if the Loyalists where to create widespread violence in every districts and surrounding areas that they occupy and live in ?

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    I’m not missing the point at all. You are making an entirely different points to before. You are talking as if you are somehow born with the condition of treachery as if it were some sort of innate immutable genetic condition rather than a chosen stance, and that you are somehow genetically incapable of being a loyal citizen. There is zero normal right in any successful modern country for you to try and destroy it.

    It doesn’t matter what your excuse for treachery is, the general number one reasonable responsibility of any modern nation state is to defend its territory and people. Only in wacko appeasement-process world do the nutjobs who support it pretend that locally we are somehow on a different planet.

  • Damien Mullan

    They found 85 Billion to bail-out the banks in September 2010. They have a national debt of 200 Billion which is rapidly falling and attracting negative yields when going to borrow from the bond market, i.e. investors are effectively paying the Irish treasury to purchase Irish state debt. Within the past 5 years, when debt peaked in 2012 at 125% of GDP, or 160% using modified GNI, it has rapidly fallen, falling to 77% of GDP and 100% using modified GNI respectively. The debt is on a trajectory to fall well below 60% GDP in the next 5 years, and begin to approach the historical 25% of GDP reached in the years before the Financial Crisis within the next 10 years.

    I don’t envisage a border poll within the next few years, but there is a reasonable prospect of one in 10 years time. At that stage the balance sheet of the Republic will be enormously healthy, perhaps amongst the healthiest of advanced developed economies. The Republic has shown over the past 10 years incredible resilience, the underlying strength of the economy is a signature attribute that has proven in recession, even depression, like conditions to be near indestructible. The capacities for affording the security resources as well as the NI budget deficit requirements are there. Finance and resourcing will not be a major problem, nor will finding additional recruits to the Guards or Army, not when one examines the number of applications that are made to both organisations when major recruitment drives are announced, they are many times over-subscribed.

  • Skibo

    I have not missed your point at all and like some other posters here, you seem to believe that democracy and treachery are all based on Northern Ireland being a democratic country. It was spawned out of terrorism and the UVF.
    I am loyal but I am loyal to the country of Ireland, one Ireland, one island.
    The treachery happened when the UVF with German guns forced the British government into establishing a sectarian region, now known as Northern Ireland. So the wacko appeasement process was the setting up of a failed state, a sectarian state, a state with no flag, no national anthem and no loyalty of then 30% of it’s population. That percentage has risen substantially.
    I am prepared, along with the majority of the Republican and Nationalist community to accept the we draw a line under the GFA and say that politics is the only way now to change anything.
    What you must accept that we have a perfectly acceptable right to work politically for the reunification of Ireland. It is not a treacherous action. Such violent speak should be left to before 1998.

  • John Collins

    It sure would

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    Correct, you are not loyal to this nation, but to another. If you want to be an “Irish” Nationalist a 6x greater sized country where your right to self-determination is not challenged and for that nationalism would be welcome is at most an hour’s drive away.

    Your claims of UVF terrorism are also laughable, but then again with the levels of deceit from the average Fenian keyboard warrior I expect little else, reaffirming the stereotype of bullsh1tting blarney of the “Irish”. I “must” not “accept” anything you say and, no, do not believe your desire to eradicate our right to self-determination is valid. I accept the right of the “Irish” self-determination in the nation to the south, and given this is not reciprocated and the disrespect I have all the more reason to oppose your treachery.

  • Skibo

    If you are just to state what you say is right and everyone else is wrong then i suggest you are in the wrong place. As far as I am aware this is a discussion page where issues are raised, we discuss them and people put forward evidence to back up their findings.
    All that I have encountered so far is insults and a use of violent phrases that is founded upon impressions and allegations.
    I am Irish. I have as much right to be Irish in Northern Ireland as you have to be British.
    I have every right to be loyal to a unified Ireland just as you have the right to be loyal to a Northern Ireland within the UK. The GFA is based on parity of esteem of both. By the way, Ireland, as one Kingdom, was about for a much longer time than Northern Ireland.
    If you are challenging the issue of the UVF and their actions from 1912, could I suggest you get out some history books and do a bit of reading?
    As for treachery, actions of treachery can only be linked where an issue of loyalty has been established. As I have never given loyalty to the Union, I cannot be accused of treachery.

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    “Parity of esteem” for two sovereign claims is logically impossible and therefore nonsense, much like the rest if the so-called “agreement” – not worth the paper it is written on. The state calling itself “Ireland” is not Ireland at all.

    Ireland has never existed as an independent sovereign state. You are indoctrinated by the dreams of a myth that has never even existed.

    I would like to hear about this UVF campaign if terror rather than being told to read about something which doesn’t exist!

    You are a indeed a traitor and should expect to be treated as one.

  • Skibo

    The Kingdom of Ireland has been about for many centuries. It was a loose connection of kings with a High King. The first real High King of Ireland was 379AD. The first English Kingdom was in the time of King Egbert 827 which makes the Irish Kingdom nearly half a century older than the English one. During this time Ireland was a land of Saints and Scholars.
    It was also a united Kingdom under King Henry VIII in 1536. Between 1172 and 1536 greater or lesser areas of Ireland were controlled by the English King but this would have been similar to England where lords and noble men would have paid homage to the English king.
    So I am not indoctrinated, just educated.
    In the period prior to 1916, the IPP used their strength within the Westminster parliament to push for home rule for Ireland and a return of the Irish Parliament. There were two bills in the 18th century, the first failed but the second passed in the House of Commons but fell at the House of Lords.
    In 1909 with the Liberals and the Tories on even numbers the IPP had the balance of power and used their strength to push for a third home rule bill. In return, they backed the Liberal plans to reduce the power of the House of Lords. The bill should have been passed in 1912 but due to political stirring by the Conservative party in Ulster Unionists, negotiations continued into 1913. The Conservatives pushed the story of two national identities in Ireland. I believe they wanted to hold onto the industrialised north.
    In January 1913 the UVF landed 25000 guns and 3million bullets into the North from Germany! Who were they going to oppose? It was not the Irish nation they would have been arming against but the democratic right of the British Parliament and so the British Army. There is your act of terrorism and there you should point to the traitors of the democratically elected British Government.
    All that happened after that date was as a consequence of Ulster Unionism arming to oppose home rule.
    This was not an opposition of an independent Ireland as that was not being demanded at that time. It was home rule within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Unionism brought the gun back into Irish politics and with it broke the Union.
    Education is a wonderful thing!

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    Sorry being armed is not an “act of terrorism”, no matter how you try to spin it. It All countries on earth are armed for defence. It is sensible and normal.

  • Skibo

    Definition of terrorism
    “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”
    The arming of the UVF and the use of those weapons against people in the North was intimidation and terrorism.
    As I said previously, the only army the UVF could have fought against was the British Army to oppose British legislation.
    I believe the British army of that time was the defenders of the then state so that makes the UVF terrorists.

  • Deplorable Ulsterman

    A laughable attempt at stretching the definition there.

  • Skibo

    NOT laughable at all.
    The only army the UVF could oppose was the British Army. The only democratic body the UVF could oppose was the British Government. That makes the UVF a terrorist organisation.