“in just the same way that nationalists in Northern Ireland can’t permanently settle for their Irish/nationalist identity being simply recognised and accommodated in part of the United Kingdom…”

In yesterday’s News Letter, Alex Kane, in effect, calls ‘bullshit’ on Sinn Féin’s latest pronoucements on a new united Ireland…  and, perhaps, the political psychosis that underlies their thinking.  That’s without addressing the question of the authority to offer any such constitutional guarantees and/or the willingness, or ability, to deliver them.  [It’s ‘Blue Sky’ thinking! – Ed]  Of course it is…  From the News Letter article

I was on a Féile an Phobail panel with Michelle O’Neill last Wednesday evening, discussing the prospects of Irish unity in the wake of Brexit.

She admitted that she was, “neither naïve nor insensitive about unionist unease on Irish unity,” then added, “constitutional change can be achieved without sacrificing identity or citizenship. For me, upholding, protecting and respecting the rights of all citizens must define a new, agreed and united Ireland. That means upholding the rights of citizens to be British and unionist.”

Here’s my problem with that. I am a British citizen: by birth and by choice. I am a unionist by choice, too; someone who believes that the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland will be better protected within the United Kingdom than in a united Ireland. In the event of a border poll producing a majority for ending the Union (triggering years of negotiation against a background of uncertainty and instability) how does she, or anyone else, uphold my right to be British and unionist in the resultant united Ireland?

As he goes on to point out

It is not possible to be British and unionist in a united Ireland in the way that it is possible to be Irish and nationalist in Northern Ireland. Irish unity shuts down unionism – because the fundamental purpose of unionism is to protect and promote a union with the United Kingdom. Voting to end the Union and then withholding the opportunity to rejoin the Union at some future point means that unionism ceases to have a purpose. What role would there be for the Ulster Unionist Party, the Democratic Unionist Party or any other unionist party?

Partition didn’t rob Sinn Fein of a role and purpose. But Irish unity leaves nothing for political/electoral unionism.

So I’d like to know – and I touched upon the issue when I was guest speaker at a Sinn Fein ‘Uniting Ireland’ conference in Dublin in January – what part of my unionism or unionist identity would be protected under Sinn Fein’s proposals? I won’t be able to campaign for the restoration of the Union. I won’t be offered a border poll. I’m pretty sure that unionists wouldn’t be given a veto over legislation to match the veto that nationalists have in the Assembly. I’m equally sure that there wouldn’t be a form of mandatory power-sharing involving unionists in future all-Ireland governments.

And,

I would also like Sinn Fein to thoroughly address Michelle’s claim that, “constitutional change can be achieved without sacrificing identity or citizenship”.

How? What would it mean to be a unionist in a united Ireland? What would it mean to be British in a united Ireland? If the Good Friday Agreement – with its right to be British or Irish (or both) – wasn’t good enough for Sinn Fein, then why would unionists want a constitutional settlement in a new united Ireland which robs them of role, purpose and the ability to reverse the result of a border poll? If a border poll doesn’t deliver Irish unity then Sinn Fein will keep on demanding another one. If a border poll does deliver a united Ireland then unionists will be told to ‘suck it up’.

Identity is a bedrock for most of us. We know who we are. We know who we want to be. That’s why nationalists – many of whom have lived their whole lives in the United Kingdom – want a united Ireland. They feel Irish. They want to be Irish. They want their state to reflect their identity.

For the same reason, unionists – who live in a place with Ireland in the title – reject the primacy of the Irishness in favour of the United Kingdom; because they, too, want a state that reflects their identity. So, in just the same way that nationalists in Northern Ireland can’t permanently settle for their Irish/nationalist identity being simply recognised and accommodated in part of the United Kingdom, unionists wouldn’t settle for their British/unionist identity being simply recognised and accommodated in a united Ireland.

I welcome the fact that Sinn Fein seems ready to extend the unity debate (and I hope mainstream unionism will engage); but they really need to move beyond positions and guarantees for unionists in a united Ireland that Sinn Fein wouldn’t themselves settle for in Northern Ireland.

Don’t hold your breath, Alex…

But it’s a point that helps illuminate the challenge Mick highlighted in Fintan O’Toole’s Irish Times op-ed…

In the context of Ireland’s future, 50 per cent + 1 is not, as Adams claims, “what democracy is about”. That kind of crude, tribal majoritarianism is precisely what the Belfast Agreement is meant to finish off. Again, the new article 3 of the Constitution is a good guide:

“It is the firm will of the Irish nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions. . .”

Harmony, friendship, diversity, multiplicity, a unity not of territory but of people – not: “We beat you by one vote so suck it up and welcome to our nation.”

Irish democracy has to be “about” the creation of a common polity in which minorities of different kinds can feel fully at home. We’re not remotely there yet – on either side of the Border.

…as well as illuminating the Dissenter’s reference to “unselfconscious repetition of communal tropes”.

To nationalists/republicans (patronisingly), unionists simply don’t understand their own condition: they believe the British ‘connection’ is necessary for their well-being when all it denotes is their dependence; either unionists become enlightened enough to free themselves; or the British government should persuade them to act according to their real interests; perverse unionist suspicions, self-doubts and prejudices should not stand in the way of the inevitability of a United Ireland.

On this ‘side of the Border’, bridges are still not being built. [There’s no votes in bridges! – Ed] Longley, once again.

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

 

 

, , , , , , , , , , ,

  • @KieranMaxwell

    What are the prereqs for calling a poll?

  • Zeno

    That has been ruled out by the British Government and the Unionists. There is no legal mechanism that allows for it and it would take a referendum before it could be imposed.

  • 05OCT68

    How then did SF become a party of the Left & why have far right parties in Ireland failed?

  • The Irishman

    No, it’s not at all.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Should join Schengen … but the Brits don’t care.
    They impose their own theories they do not listen.

  • The Irishman

    And why do you think this is fairly likely?

  • Aodh Morrison

    If “abandonment” in these circumstances is a demerit is that not an argument that could be employed in the ’50+1′ scenario?

    In the event of 50+1 could the ‘49%ers’ appeal to the UK not to ‘abandon’ them?

  • Jeff

    Absolutely and the South can’t afford us

  • LighterSide…

    When I was in Sligo around 1995, I chatted with some Irish people at the hostel at which I was staying.
    A guy from Belfast asked me my thoughts on the upcoming Quebec sovereignty referendum.
    I said that I hoped Quebec would remain in Canada, but that if a majority voted to leave, I could understand why French people would rather be a majority in their own smaller country(nation…whatever) than to continue being a minority within Canada.
    The Belfast guy asked “what about the Anglo’s who want to remain in Canada?” He seemed to think they would be abandoned to the whims of the majority in a new Quebec.
    I said that it was unlikely they would be terribly discriminated against in an independent Quebec,and that’s the way these votes go .
    Both sides can’t have their way, but hopefully the losers don’t go apeshit and hopefully the winners conduct themselves with grace and respect for the other side.

  • Aodh Morrison

    A family member lives in Quebec in an area that is majority French speaking and PQ orientated (also lots of government employees, and notwithstanding the Francophone culture voted a majority ‘no’ to independence).

    Running a small business that has been plagued in the past by L’office québécois de la langue française over signage. French signs are obviously used but apparently were not displayed prominently enough vis-à-vis the English script.

    Anti-Anglo discrimination? Probably not but small irritations are, well, irritating – as evidenced by the fact that the subject was brought up with me in a casual conversation.

    Factor in a possibly fraught environment following a major constitutional change and minor bugbears can escalate into real problems.

  • LighterSide…

    The Independist leader, Jacques Parizeau, caught a lot of flak for the mildly racist/exclusionary declaration that 65% of “us” (Francophones/ ethnic French-Canadians) voted yes to separation, but that was not quite enough to win the day. A majority of French-speaking people wanted nationhood, but a slim majority of all Quebecers voted “no.”
    Yes, the Language Police can be a little fascist, but life goes on.

  • Georgie Best

    Well that’s something to be proud off for some people.

  • Mach1965

    Again, you’re just manipulating the facts, N.I was imposed on the whole island. It was unionism that forced the split, happily aided and abetted by the British government and their threat of war.

  • Karl

    You think Collins demanded that 6 counties be separated from the rest of the country??

  • Karl

    I keep hearing about the NHS. It may have been transformative for the generations in the 50s and 60s but today it is a shadow of its former self.

    The Irish health system has a life expectancy for men at 78 and women at 83. For NI NHS its one year less for both sexes.

  • Dónall

    It seems to me there are three ways things can go after Brexit: Direct Rule with a huge campaign from Republicans for a United Ireland; Joint rule; or a return to Stormont with better provisions for Irish culture and sensible open borders. With an increased ‘nationalist’ mandate something has got to give.

  • Tochais Siorai

    ‘That’s pretty accommodating on behalf of unionism.’

    And the alternative was what, exactly?

  • james

    “James, historically both Ireland and Scotland were invaded and subject to occupation, plantations and eviction of natives. That is fact.”

    Can you name a country in which, historically, one or other aspect of this has not occurred?

  • The Saint

    James but were not discussing any other country.
    Your debates centre around “but whatabout” I don’t care for that and will not be entertaining such.

  • james

    The likelihood that it would succeed.

  • james

    I’m not saying Irish people as a whole supported the Nazi cause – but Irish Republicans certainly did. De Valera was also, at least, a Nazi sympathizer. Modern Sinn Fein celebrate the actions of former IRA chief staff Sean Russell in attempting to facilitate a Nazi invasion.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Mightn’t be from a Unionist bigwig point of view – swap places that were around 50/50 for places that were 90%+ Nationalist. You’d have to do some bit of convoluted map drawing to get half decent sized areas with significant Unionist majorities in Donegal and Monaghan even in the 1920s.

    Sorry, AG, but it was the usual mindset. Grab as much as territory as possible whilst increasing the percentages a bit.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Nationalists don’t identify with ‘the Republic of Ireland.’

    They identify with Ireland. The island. That’s the whole point.

  • Tochais Siorai

    OK.

    And then an Indyref votes for independence.

    What’s not to like about it?

  • LighterSide…

    James makes a good point. Too often on this website people carry on as though the situation in NI is absurd and unique. It’s not uncommon for one country to invade another, occupy it, settle it and evict the natives. Nor is it uncommon for the natives to resist.
    Usually,at some point, one side admits defeat or the two sides merge into one.
    The really unique thing about NI is the length of the stalemate.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Nonsense. No serious historian has ever suggested that De Valera was a Nazi sympathiser and there is no evidence to suggest this. He was of course a petty minded stickler for diplomatic niceties which led to the shameful visit to the German Embassy on Hitler’s death.

    Anyway, if you’re genuinely interested in the subject, I’d recommend
    Ireland, Germany and the Nazis

  • Zeno

    Something would give if their mandate was big enough and growing but it isn’t.

  • Karl

    Really, Azerbijan has a sizable Armenian population. Sri Lanka. Georgia. Most countries in Africa. There is nothing unique about NI. See the basques for a similar example in western europe.

  • james

    Erm….. no….

    There is no ‘but whatabout’ in my argument.

    What I’m saying is that the phrase “historically both Ireland and Scotland were invaded and subject to occupation, plantations and eviction of natives.”

    ….is ultimately meaningless, given that

    historically most if not all countries at some point were invaded and subject to occupation, plantations and eviction of natives.

  • Dónall

    This is my calculation for the combined SDLP/Sinn Féin vote since 2003:

    Assembly Elections SF/SDLP 2003-2017
    2003 = 280,305
    2007 = 285,737
    2016 = 250,153
    2017 = 320,203

    That would appear to suggest that their mandate is growing in the assembly at any rate. Regarding Westminister, the election of 7 abstentionist canditates would seem to indicate that the nationalist population of the north no longer want Westminister to have a say in their affairs.

    As I said yesterday there are two completley opposing aspirations in this place. Might be worth noting that the Alliance vote is also inceasing which could be seen as a vote for devolution. So maybe three aspirations.

  • The worm!

    Dunno, probably a few more Omagh’s, Canary Wharf’s, and Lance Bombardier Restorick’s, then back to the negotiating table.

    Only with more families lives ruined forever!

  • The worm!

    Once they come to their senses and re-unite the “British Isles” only the most blinkered or prejudiced will want to hang on to the bad old days of dis-unity!

  • The Saint

    Your whataboutery lies in the fact I replied a factual statement to surveyor, you had no act or part in that reply and did not add in any way to that reply.

    You wonder why I question your ability to debate? Primarily because you fail to stay on topic.

  • Tochais Siorai

    You do know that Omagh was bombed after the GFA and by people opposed to the GFA?

    Don’t you?

  • Zeno

    Growth in the Assembly doesn’t mean much when the unionists are keeping up with it. We need another Assembly to get the real picture there.
    Both SF and the DUP are slightly down over the last 20 years when you take their votes as a percentage of the electorate. To grow they need to attract more younger people and neither are. The electorate increased by around 76,000 but the Nationalist parties only got 18% of the new 76,000 voters .

  • Dónall

    To put it into perspective the combined Unionist vote of the last WM election was 398921 or so (including conservatives ect). Compared to 375596 combined nationalist vote (including the Workers Party but excluding PBP ect). It seems pretty even-stevens to me.

    It doesn’t matter how you dress it up with percentages, nationalist parties increased their vote by 70,000 + votes in the last election and by 40,000 + compared with 2003. For the first time their vote increased to over 300,000. This is an increased mandate and it could well be set to grow.

  • james

    Eh?

  • Zeno

    See above. There has been little to no change since the GFA.
    And both are down as a percentage of the full electorate.
    The Nationalist vote hasn’t even recovered to 1998 levels in the Assembly 322,810, so I don’t see how you can say it’s growing.

  • Zeno

    2017 Westminster Election.
    SDLP 95419
    SF ::::238915
    WP :::::::5509
    I make that 339843, you seem to have nearly 36 thousand votes more than I counted.
    Where are you getting 375596?

  • 05OCT68

    How could could a pro Nazi government rule in Ireland given given an estimated 250,000 Southern Irish that either “joined up” or were employed in “war work”? The figures are a combination of recorded travel permits, identity cards, passports issued & a Department of external Affairs estimate of 45,000 that left for Britain between Sep 39 & June 1940. The figures are from a History Ireland article. One of my Grandfathers a went to “The Yard” to work during WW2 he was ordered out at gunpoint because he was Catholic, he traveled to England to work in the shipyards there, My other Grandfather fought in North Africa & Burma. Both Catholic, both Nationalist, both fought the War in there own way. To suggest that they would countenance a Nazi sympathetic government is absurd.

  • eamoncorbett

    What was the result of the referendum in Iraq which invited Britain and the US to invade , do you have figures , percentages etc . Do you have figures on the amount of non combatants slaughtered during the conflict , I do (UN) between 150000 and 250000. Both countries walked away from the carnage without even an admission of guilt.

  • james

    Your point being?

  • james

    Hard to stay ‘on topic’, given your apparent unwillingness to craft a coherent sentence….

  • eamoncorbett

    WHAAAAAT planet do you live on , restrictive environment, hardly any police carry guns , only those who won’t work don’t , very few priests left , Dublin is one of the most vibrant cities in Europe , clean industry including pharma, computer chip and agrifood factories throughout the land ,oh and as for the social side of things , plenty of that too . You should put down that early 1960s book you’re reading and make your first visit , might open your eyes.

  • Zeno

    Odd my reply doesn’t appear here.
    I was asking where you got the 375596 nationalist votes in the Westminster Election as I have almost 36 thousand less?

  • The Saint

    coming from a fantasist troll, I will take that as a positive

  • Dónall

    Yeah you are right I think I copied the wrong no into the calculator 335042

  • Zeno

    Easily done.

  • eamoncorbett

    If there ever was a possibility of a UI , I would imagine the EU would step in with huge funding for the first few years at least.

  • Dónall

    There was much more voting options in 1998 by the looks of things leading to a bigger turnout. The SDLP had much stronger candidates, for example. The variety seems to have favoured Unionism. There were over 400,000 Unionists voting for the variety of parties. Surprisingly the SDLP were the biggest party at the time.

  • The worm!

    I think everyone in the country is well aware of the detail of the Omagh bomb thank you very much.

    In any case, your pathetic attempt at pedantry followed by condescension in connection with such an event is pretty shameful.

  • Zeno

    But my point stands, there has been no Nationalist growth over the last 19 years and yet the media are talking about a Nationalist Surge and because of this a UI is back on the table. It will be happening soon according to Gerry Adams. It’s inevitable I hear constantly. Read the dissenter on it.
    http://www.thedissenter.co.uk/

    “For the first time in my life, the prospect of a united Ireland is not only credible but inevitable.”
    ———- But Ireland now looks set to join the roster of political shocks and upsets we have seen rippling across the world”

    Siobhan Fenton’s is a classic example of history-less, evidence-free, journalism but its interest lies in its unselfconscious repetition of communal tropes.

  • james

    True to form…

  • mickfealty

    There’s no such franchise.

  • Tochais Siorai

    To call someone out over a basic mistake about the circumstances surrounding an obscene event is neither pedantic,condescending nor shameful.

    Spare us the false outrage.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    We could have a vote of everyone in the British Isles to decide the ROI’s future, a la the old Irish nationalist view of how NI’s future should be decided.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    De Valera’s failure was moral ambivalence rather than full support for them. To be fair it was the Republican Movement that was in bed with the Nazis – Plan Kathleen etc.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Many have but there is none so blind as he who will not see, as they say. It’s really not so complicated to understand, just needs a bit of empathy.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    it’s pretty close to nothing

  • Reader

    JoeCro: The Northern Ireland part of the UK is not a ‘normal’ society going by broader typical secular western European values.
    Then almost all of the whole world isn’t “Normal”

  • Reader

    Surveyor: A poll which can only be called on the say-so of an appointed British proconsul sums up this place to a T.
    You bought it, you keep it.

  • Reader

    05OCT68: And GB is the only part of the UK that offers a pluralistic environment.
    And yet NI is the only part of the UK that offers mandatory power sharing.

  • Reader

    Karl: You think Collins demanded that 6 counties be separated from the rest of the country??
    He won the war, of course he set the conditions…
    He did win, didn’t he?

  • Karl

    Nope

  • non-Scots = “[…] a Commonwealth citizen, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland or a relevant citizen of the European Union.” – s2(1)(d) Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013.

  • eamoncorbett

    My point is quite simple , you referred to the Scottish referendum on whether they should be governed by Westminster , why wasn’t Iraq offered the same choice , you are a democrat aren’t you , you respect the will of the people . Was it the will of the Iraqi people to be slaughtered from the air by RAF pilots sending 1000 lb bombs from 30000 ft into areas where they knew that children were within striking distance . I don’t recall the Irish Republic using their army to subvert democracy in anyone else’s country.

  • Alan N/Ards

    I thought that the indigenous Americans were still waiting for their independence. I’m not sure that living in a reservation is quite the same as being in control of your own land. How many native American Presidents has there been in this so called land of the free?

  • mickfealty

    That’s the actual franchise. But there’s not one which comprises only Scots born folk in Scotland. Is there?

  • Georgie Best

    In Massachusetts and Tasmania the British killed off the locals and then declared themselves native. In Ireland they did not kill all the locals and so continued to declare themselves British so as to be distinguished. Nevertheless, there is no future in living in one place while identifying with another to avoid having common purpose with others who live where you do.

  • Alan N/Ards

    A number of years ago, a relative, through marriage (a member of the army) was over in the states, as part of an army delegation. They met with a lot of people, but the bit that stood out for him was meeting some of the American Irish. His delegation were informed by these people, that they were invaders and had no right to be in Ireland and should leave. He responded to their statement by saying that when the American Irish (and the rest of the non indigenous population) leave the states, and let the indigenous Americans run their own land, then Britain should leave Ireland. The hypocrites were stunned into silence.

    “Nevertheless, there is no future in living in one place while identifying with another to avoid having common purpose with others who live where you do.”

    This is a small island and it would be beneficial to all its inhabitants if we could find a common purpose. The problem (we have on this island) of identity is going to be a hard nut to crack. Does common purpose have to mean an unitary state?

    How can the people, who value the identity of their forefathers, be convinced that they have a common purpose with the rest of the inhabitants, if their fore fathers are condemned as invaders, planters etc?

    I do see where you are coming from (BTW) and I’m sure the native Americans probably feel the same way as you and your fellow nationalists. Unfortunately, for them, they will never see their land returned to them. Nationalism has most of its land back, and appears to be on its way to reclaiming the rest of it (according to many on here).

  • 05OCT68

    That would be a pluralistic government & it’s not really that, we here do not have a pluralist society/environment.

  • Georgie Best

    I don’t think the idea of getting land back is helpful. But I also think that ethnic politics can only offer division.

    If unionists want to respect their forefathers then colonialism was not their finest hour. There may be other values that they can choose to hold on to instead. But modern unionism has chosen the colonial link over aspects of hard work or respect for the individual that their forefathers might have considered equally important.

  • james

    “why wasn’t Iraq offered the same choice , you are a democrat aren’t you , you respect the will of the people . Was it the will of the Iraqi people to be slaughtered”

    Well, they did have elections during the Hussein years, I believe….

  • Reader

    Tochais Siorai: That’s the whole point.
    OK, got it – for nationalists it’s the lump of rock that’s the important thing, not the state or the constitution. But, for unionists, I explained why the UK isn’t a “foreign place”. You have waited 200 years for unionists to be alienated from the UK. The conditions for that change don’t exist.

  • Reader

    Surveyor: Oh we’ve had a border poll? Must have missed that.
    Possibly it was before your time. 1973. Nationalists threw the toys out of the pram even before the vote. It’s as though they needed more time to come round to the idea of the Prtinciple of Consent. 25 years more time.

  • Devil Éire

    True, but then most of the whole world is not in western Europe.

  • Tochais Siorai

    States and constitutions change over time. Sometimes dramatically.

    The ‘lump of rock,’ as you so eloquently describe it, will always be there.

  • Erm, isn’t “50 per cent + 1” essentially another term for the principle of consent?

    Article 1 (ii) of the Good Friday Agreement states that the participants “recognise that it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish, accepting that this right must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland”.

    Far from “finishing it off”, it is the text of the Good Friday Agreement makes “crude, tribal majoritarianism” (to use O’Toole’s description) a stipulation; not Sinn Féin or Gerry Adams. The term “majority” is specifically used in the text (as one can read above).

    The inclusion of the principle of consent was a unionist demand and a republican compromise in light of the fact that the northern statelet was created and weighted specifically in unionism’s favour and had questionable democratic legitimacy in the first place. I have always understood the consent principle to be a fundamental element of the Agreement, so it’s odd to hear O’Toole – along with other purported supporters of the GFA (such as Leo Varadkar and Bertie Ahern) recently – attempt to dismiss this component. To start insinuating that the pro-unity side meeting this threshold in a future unity referendum (in tandem with a pro-unity result in a southern referendum) may not be enough to achieve unity appears to me to be a move towards shifting the goalposts.

    Societal unity, rather than mere territorial unity, is the obviously ideal for unity proponents, but unionists and opponents can hardly complain when the consent principle that they demanded be included delivers a verdict they don’t like.

    Societal unity can hopefully be brought about by reconciliation, outreach and explicit acknowledgement of the parity of and equal place for the British/Protestant/unionist/loyalist tradition on this island in a new united Ireland. This can all be done in tandem with working towards winning the consent of a pro-unity majority in the north and south. Even though many unionists may not vote for unity, the new arrangement will have to be as tolerable for them as we can make it. The more intolerable and objectionable it is for them, the greater the likelihood of widespread discontent, violence and/or the project failing.

    There are plenty of people in the north who identify as nationalists but who have been content to maintain the Union because they don’t find it unpalatable and may even see it (misguidedly, in my view) as benefiting them financially. They seem content even though their personal, cultural or national identity isn’t necessarily reflected or channelled through the state in which they live. There’s no reason why a significant number of unionists won’t mirror the same sort of attitude in a united Ireland. Why would they be any different?

    I think Sophie Long is a leading progressive light within the PUL community on this front. A few months ago, she was on BBC Radio Ulster (it was either Nolan or Talkback) encouraging unionists to think pragmatically about the (now-more-likely) prospect of Irish unity and to come to the discussion table as a sort of “insurance policy” so as to ensure they won’t be left in the cold without any influence when unity does finally arrive. I’d very much welcome that. I want to hear more of what unionists would desire, what they would find acceptable and what they would find intolerable in a new settlement.

    On Alex Kane’s piece, he raises some challenges for republicanism – this is welcome and I’m glad Alex is keen to engage with the debate – but I don’t see why they have to be insurmountable. Plenty of people born on the southern side of the border still identify as both unionist and British despite the state in which they were born no longer having any formal connection to Britain. Willie Hay, Basil McCrea, Maurice Devenney and Charley McAdam (secretary of Cavan’s Orange Order) are just some examples. Why can’t their identity survive unity?

    Irish unity doesn’t have to “rob [unionists] of role, purpose and the ability to reverse the result of a border poll”. Alex appears to be seeking a sort of parity of esteem in what he writes, but doesn’t seem convinced that such an ideal is realisable in a united Ireland. Parity of esteem is a noble concept and I believe in it myself. We can duly include then a clause in a new unity settlement whereby unionists can take the whole island back into a union with Britain if they can peacefully and politically achieve it via the winning of a democratic majority within the new democratic unit. Isn’t that the hoop through which nationalists and republicans are being asked to jump by Alex in order to achieve our aspiration? This clause would politically validate unionism’s ambition and would give unionists a platform on or towards which to work. Wouldn’t that be a form of parity of treatment?

    I think the most fundamental thing for nationalists and republicans to acknowledge and accept is the following; what we expect in the north in terms of parity and equal treatment, we have to be prepared to extend the very same to unionists in a new united Ireland. Otherwise, we leave ourselves open to charges of hypocrisy and bad faith. If that entails official recognition of unionist and Ulster Protestant traditions/symbolism by the new state, so be it. In fact, the Irish government already includes some Ulster-Scots poetry by Ulster Presbyterian James Orr on the current Irish passport. I feel this is a step in the right direction.