British Government rule out Joint Authority

Courtesy of David Blevins

This is what Simon Coveney’s predecessor, Patrick Hillery would have a called a “courteous brush off.”

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  • Skibo

    I believe the Anglo Saxons are waiting for the Normans to leave so they can get back control of their country.
    Please remember that the Irish Government was set up for the people of Ireland to rule the people of Ireland as opposed to the parliament of the UK ruling a part of Ireland.

  • Skibo

    So Brendan, where do you stand on Sinn Fein not returning while the DUP want to return to the last ten years, with holding out for a better deal or continuing with a bad job?

  • Stephen Kelly

    No problem paranoia reigns supreme.

  • Marcus Orr

    Why paranoia ?
    I’m not complaining, just describing the situation as is.

  • Skibo

    I think that is a rather juvenile comment, vote Gerry, get Theresa. For one thing Gerry stands in Louth and I believe no amount of electing Gerry will result in the British ruling Louth.
    For the other, it is the DUP MPs who would prefer direct rule as it would increase their control of the North through the Tory/DUP committee.
    The one person prepared to do anything to achieve the forming of an Executive is Arlene. As this debacle continues, her power will wain and the control of the DUP will siphon off to the Westminster end of the party.

  • Stephen Kelly

    Holy god.

  • Stephen Kelly

    Oh dear

  • Marcus Orr

    Could you be more specific in your criticism?

  • ronanpeter

    A lot to digest there. I misread your warning as one where extremism returns.

    “The Nationalist consensus around the imperatives and parameters framed by the GFA, may no longer hold, may no longer be viewed as the short to medium term solution to the divisions of this place”

    GFA explicitly recognised the fractured or divided nature of perspectives in Northern Ireland based on cultural and historical identity, and sought to create a governance structure which could navigate this is in a civilised way. Instead, that idea has been undermined by entrenched political manoeuvring and an unfortunate system where the politics of fear seems to pay dividends (a question of incentivisation to co-govern effectively which is another issue). So yes, this attempt to realise effective institutions which uphold that core ideal is showing real danger of failing.

    But this idea that Nationalists become abandoned in the event of Direct Rule seems very ideological to me. Where does it spring from? Abandoned in what sense? The idea that a Taoiseach rides into Guildhall Square on a white horse is ridiculous – sorry but it is. Who exactly are they saving and from what?

    In my view, if any abandonment comes to pass then it will be in a scenario where Nationalists admit defeat on the project of creating a shared society across the Province. It’s actually a case of sticking our heads in the sand.

    The problems are ours and we should own them and the consequences for failing to address them. Direct Rule should be seen as an administrative necessity if it comes to pass as the current lack of devolved administration is having an increasingly disastrous impact on planning for public services here.

  • Skibo

    Marcus, you have this strange belief that everything in NI is democratic but what you fail to recognise is the undemocratic way that the North was formed. It was not a democratic decision but a sectarian head-count at the and of a gun.
    In as much as the elections in the North are now run on a nearly democratic process, the way the system was set up negates the democracy of all votes thereafter.
    In the end, what I want is a democratic process where the people of Ireland decide the direction of government for the country of Ireland, a 32 county state as was before partition.

  • Skibo

    My concern would be that the North/South bodies are inextricably linked to the Stormont Assembly. While one should not be able to stand without the other, the Unionist parties paid lip service to the North South bodies for many years.
    I believe there is some form of legislation within the GFA that states if the North/South bodies fall, the British Irish council should retain their power but I stand to be corrected on that point.

  • Skibo

    The strategy is that the DUP have not and consequently will not complete or fulfil negotiated positions after the Assembly reforms. All promises must be nailed down in public before this will happen.
    If the DUP do want devolution, and that is the only horse in town that will slow down reunification, they have to accept that they have some heavy lifting to do.
    Unfortunately they have stated publicly there will be no Irish Language Act or same sex marriage so any move from there will be seen as a sign of weakness and will lose them votes on the hard line. It may actually garner votes on the more liberal end but that is a gamble they may have to take.

  • Skibo

    Innocent people got hurt on all sides and by all movements. Do you stand over your comment for them all also?

  • Skibo

    Your problem is you believe any push for reunification is seen as extremist. That is not the case and the project of reunification is now becoming the norm within Nationalism and republicanism.
    What has changed is that Republicanism has realised that they do not require violence now to achieve reunification and it was actually having a detrimental effect.
    There is an extremism out there but it is minimal, very minimal. I saw a post recently where the IRSP was calling for a border poll also. Didn’t get much press but they were the political arm of one of the most extreme ends of Republicanism.

  • ronanpeter

    Not at all. Reunification has never been an extremist goal and we dealt with such perspectives 15 years ago. The means on the other hand can be.

    As a few have mentioned elsewhere in these comments however, the reunification project says nothing for how we solve economic and social problems now, and the people suffer in the meantime. It’s a dangerous game to play.

    Calls for a border poll right now can certainly be said to be opportunistic but in no way extremist.

  • james

    “Innocent people got hurt on all sides and by all movements. Do you stand over your comment for them all also?”

    Yes, of course.

    So I’ll edit, for clarity:

    As things drift along there will be more dissident republican activity.”

    Perhaps that is what Sinn Fein are hoping for? After all, they’ve never minded a few innocent people, on all sides, getting hurt – if it serves them politically.

  • Reader

    Skibo: I think I would take that!
    Your negotiators were sold a pup in that respect during the GFA, weren’t they? I suppose they liked the headline rhetoric and didn’t notice the downside.
    The downside being that they couldn’t count on their voters.

  • Reader

    William Kinmont: It may well shore up northern Ireland’s position considerably.
    This appears to be the “Briar Patch” argument. A lot of the republicans here on Slugger have been vociferous in support of joint authority over UK direct rule until now. Let’s see if you can win them over with your strategic vision…

  • Reader

    1729Torus: The DUP can only exert influence under very particular circumstances that only come around once every few decades, and become less likely as SF gain seats.
    It’s the number of DUP seats that matters. And don’t the DUP have more seats in Westminster now than they have ever had before?

  • Damien Mullan

    Lets not kid ourselves. The governance of NI operates on auto-pilot whether its Devolution or Direct Rule, the only real danger would arise in the event of a serious diminution of the Barnett Formula’s allocation. High stakes policy and politics is not practiced in NI. And to retort that, well naturally given its a region of the UK, well states and municipalities in the US often suffer the consequences of poor policy and management with bankruptcy or severe belt tightening, often decimating public services. There is never the serious threat of this in NI under any governance circumstances.

    There is a very valid reason why the Irish government is a co-guarantor of the GFA. Almost every assessment as to the conditions that brought about the cessation of violence, was the slow but steady realization in London of the necessity for the Irish state to involve itself directly into the process. That is confirmed by signature events like, the Anglo Irish Agreement, the Downing Street Declaration, the Good Friday Agreement, and the St Andrew’s Agreement, not to mention the North-South ministerial cooperation.

    As for any Taoiseach riding to the rescue, again, that’s not what I am purporting would be the result of a more unilateral southern engagement in northern affairs. Indeed, this process is already under construction in a constitutional sense, the announcement by Enda Kenny in March of this year, to begin preparations for the extension of voting in Irish presidential elections to Irish citizens in NI and abroad, is such an example. These initiatives are being explored because a chasm currently exits, an abandonment if you will, of one section of the Irish nation not being afforded the opportunity to democratically participate in the process for choosing the Irish Head of State.

    As for the sense of abandonment, that is self evident in the re-imposition of Direct Rule, unionists are British, Nationalists are Irish, in the event of Direct Rule, it will be ‘British-only’ ministers that will administer the devolved affairs of NI. That’s as profound a disenfranchisement and abandonment that one can conjure in all the scenarios for NI governance. That sense may not be palpable now, but then Direct Rule has yet to be imposed, when it does, the political dynamic changes and shifts immediately, with Nationalism at loggerheads with British government ministers who might fluff an Irish Language Act and legacy issues.

  • Marcus Orr

    I certainly don’t believe that everything in Northern Ireland has been democratic and “hunky-dory”, far from it, but I don’t agree that the North was formed in an undemocratic fashion. The nation was the UK (Great Britain and Ireland) in 1918, Ireland was not a 32 county state, but was a part of the nation called UK – I am aware that my point of view is heresy from an Irish Nationalist/Republican viewpoint, but please bear with me.
    The part of the nation UK which expressed a democratic wish to leave – the 26 counties – was allowed (eventually) to leave. All that we wanted in the North was the status quo. The 6 counties were not splitting up Ireland, but rather the South was leaving, and the North was not wanting to leave too. It was all fairly democratic if we look at the numbers: only 29% unionist for the whole Island, 58% unionist in historic Ulster, 67% unionist for the 6 counties. That means the unionist vote in the 26 counties must have been at 4-5%. So those who wished to leave the UK, left.
    I admit you’d be on firmer ground if you pointed out that already in 1918 Tyrone & Fermanagh voted approx. 55%-45% slightly majority nationalist, so Craig chanced his arm a little in taking those counties too. Only Armagh, Down, Antrim and Londonderry were solidly unionist. And of course one could argue about majority nationalist cities like Derry or Newry too.

  • Ruairi Murphy

    Marcus I think you would do well to step back and consider the lens through which you interpret events.

    The GFA has everything in it that Unionism needs to secure Northern Ireland within the UK for the future, even with the shifting demographics.

    Sinn Fein are currently dining out on Unionist intransigence. 3-4 years ago if a SF representative mentioned a border poll or tried to advocate for reunification they were laughed out of it. Now the issue is front and centre. Ask yourself why? Is it due to some great strategic play by SF?

  • Reader

    Get The Grade: Not really. Some form of dual input would, in my opinion, be the best way of keeping Nationalists of all shades happy with the status quo, thus prolonging the current UK arrangement.
    It’s always nice to get tactical advice from nationalists about the best way to preserve the union.

  • Marcus Orr

    I think that the reason for the border poll question being raised is obvious, it’s due to the whole Brexit thematic. When you look at NI elections the unionist – nationalist split is roughly 55-45, but in the opinion polls there is still a clear majority for remaining in the UK (74-26% in the last opinion poll I saw last year).
    I take that to mean that at the moment only Sinn Féin supporters are definitely voting for a United Ireland. All the others (SDLP, PBP, Alliance, Greens etc.) must still be ok with remaining in the UK or sitting on the fence. But Brexit has the potential to move the “mild” nationalists into going for a United Ireland, thus the situation has changed vs. a couple years ago.

  • William Kinmont

    How far would this joint input have to go before it either altered or undermined republican strategy?
    Dont know why Unionists dont see it as outflanking measure. Wee Sir Jeffery seems to get hotter than a runaway boiler at the slightest mention which could be a bluff but unlikely

  • Stephen Kelly

    Same old same old

  • Stephen Kelly

    Same old same old same old

  • The worm!

    I’d have thought it pretty obvious that it was said decidedly tongue-in-cheek, although with an obvious degree of relevance to the rest of the post.

    You however, are of-course fully entitled to see it whichever way you desire.

  • Neville Bagnall

    It’s not in the GFA, there might be something in some of the Legislation, but having remembered that devolution was suspended before in 2002-2007, I looked in the NSMC annual report for 2002 and found this:

    “Following the suspension of the Assembly on 14 October 2002, the Agreement between the two Governments establishing the Bodies was amended by way of Exchange of Letters. Under the terms of the amendment, ‘Decisions of the North/South Ministerial Council on policies and actions relating to the Implementation Bodies, Tourism Ireland Limited or their respective functions shall be taken by our two Governments. No new functions shall be conferred on the Implementation Bodies’. This was designed to ensure that the Bodies
    could continue to carry out their important public functions on a care and maintenance basis. As this Report goes to press, the two Governments are continuing their efforts to bring about the restoration of devolved Government in Northern Ireland”.

    Subsequent reports list decisions made through the “interim procedures mechanism”.

    Of course 2017 isn’t 2002.

  • Aodh Morrison

    It is amazing that in 2017 Irish nationalists are still advancing the weary old trop that the UK is “ruling a part of Ireland”.

    The past decades appear to have past by without Rip Van Nationalist grasping the simple fact that Northern Ireland (for those devoid of any semblance of respect aka ‘The North’ or “part of Ireland”) remains within the UK because the majority of the population want it to so.

    You know it really is well into the second decade of the 21st Century. One would have thought that such a simple political concept would have somehow come to be recognised as factual reality rather than the John Bull paranoia that frames every political thought in their heads.

  • Aodh Morrison

    You did invent them.

    Voting for the Sinn Féin gang, whilst easily ignoring its bloody antecedents, facilitated the “wet dream” to become a waking reality.

  • Neville Bagnall

    Of course the real cat-among-the-pigeons here is Brexit.

    Toothless though some of the implementation bodies may be, they were operating on an All-Ireland basis in a common regulatory and legal regime – the EU Acquis.

    5 of the 6 bodies (Waterways, FSPB, InterTradeIreland, the EU Programmes Body and Loughs & Lights) will undoubtedly be part of the nitty-gritty in the Ireland strand of the Brexit negotiations, but in all likelihood all 12 areas will be part of Barnier’s brief.

  • 1729torus

    None of that contradicts what I said; though I shouldn’t have conflated the DUP and the Unionist bloc in general.

  • erasmus

    Marcus,
    He was more than ‘chancing his arm a little’. Half the surface area of the NI state was majority nationalist including the second largest city. He also threatened violence and mayhem if the 1926 boundary commission transferred as much as a square inch of nationalist majority territory to the ROI.
    I believe the principle of partition was correct; but if only it had been done properly all subsequent horrors would have been avoided.
    Incidentally the ROI area would not have seen it as breaking away: they would have seen it as restoring a pre-colonisation status quo ante of sorts — much like 19th Greece exiting the Ottoman Empire.

  • Marcus Orr

    In my opinion it was not the exact details of how partition was done, in the end with the large swathes of unionist and nationalist communities running through Armagh, Fermanagh, Tyrone etc, any way you would have made the partition would have led to large amounts of people not being in the state that they identified with.
    The mistake was made by the British Govt. They should have directly integrated Northern Ireland into the UK under direct rule from the very start in 1921, we should have been governed just like any English shire or Scottish borough. The mistake was regional devolved govt. at Stormont, it was obviously creating a situation in which at some point there would be tensions because of the 2 communities in NI and of one community having a built in electoral advantage over the other.

  • Sub

    No the DUPs brand of sectarianism has always been present in political Unionism

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The GFA says all the institutions are inter-dependent and there is to be no cherry-picking or supporting of some but not others

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Brexit though is not in conflict with the Belfast Agreement: https://www.supremecourt.uk/docs/attorney-general-for-northern-ireland.pdf
    I see no reason why cross-border bodies can’t carry on unaffected – but am no expert, am I missing something?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    the former I think – certainly no need to pull out of the GFA, it is still operative when the Executive isn’t operational though it does say parties must commit to all institutions and not cherry-pick – so SF are breaching that at the moment.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    All true except that, odd though it may seem, quite a few people seem to be voting SF who don’t actually support a united Ireland any time soon. It’s not all SDLP voters that vote for a nationalist party but don’t really want a united Ireland much.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    that has gone Skibo – never going to happen. Nationalism conceded that definitively in the GFA. Game over.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “Had Unionism stretched out the hand of fairness, equality and respect at the formation of the State, many Natonalists would be quite happy and content within Northern Ireland.”

    It could have done better, that’s a fair point. But actually many Nationalists *are* quite happy and content within Northern Ireland. The data has been consistent on that for many years.

    The UUP governments of the middle of the last century should have been fairer to nationalists because that was the right thing to do; but it’s far from clear it would have converted them into unionists if they had. Something of a myth that nationalism was created by unionism and would have died without unionists making errors. Nationalism has always had other motivations to sustain it.

  • eamoncorbett

    I can’t promise anything, I was seeking Unionist opinion on which choice they’d make if that option were on the table . This is after all an opinion site , very few legislators on it if any.

  • eamoncorbett

    I think you know what I mean .

  • eamoncorbett

    Ok , I turned off the spell prompter and out came “unreconstructed ” that ok ?

  • Mary Russell

    I never inferred that Nationalism was created by Unionism, it may have flourished under the conditions that were prevalent then and now. I even stated that there would always be those who wanted an United Ireland regardless of their political or social situation. The point I was making was that years of unfair treatment, by your own admission, led to an environment that was fertile ground for the growth of discontentment and dissatisfaction among Nationalism. I also did not say that if those Nationalist had security, equality and parity, they would become Unionists in outlook. Some probably would not, but they would be content with the status quo. If people are reasonably happy where they are, raising families and can see a fair and just future where their children’s ambitions can be realised and where their culture and language is respected and where their concerns and views are considered and taken on board, then they are quite happy not to have dramatic change in their lives and will not constantly look for or agitate for change. I take your point that Nationalism was not created by Unionism and would not have died had Unionism made less errors, however it was those errors that encouraged and validated the growth of Nationalism .

  • Aodh Morrison

    Indeed, as has the murderous sectarianism within political nationalism as exemplified by Sinn Féin.

  • eamoncorbett

    What was Britain doing in Billy Clintons America all those years ago on land that rightly belonged to native Americans. Were they trying to occupy the country before they were driven out.

  • Sub

    As a Unionist you should steer well clear of mentioning murderous sectarianism given that unionists were responsible for the majority of civilian sectarian murders during the troubles.

  • Marcus Orr

    In a historical sense, I have never found any valid title to territory other than the ultimate ability to take it and to hold it. That is I’m afraid how basically all nations have been established at some point of time or another.

  • Reader

    eamonncorbett: I can’t promise anything, I was seeking Unionist opinion on which choice they’d make if that option were on the table .
    I am generally open to dealing with hypothetical questions in the spirit in which they were asked, but not to spend much tiome on them. I will answer your question.
    Given the pure binary choice, I would go for your option 1. That, of course, assumes that both options leave me within the UK, which is the key decider.

  • tmitch57

    Tell me, what is ethic cleansing? Never heard of that before.

  • Aodh Morrison

    No thanks, I don’t think I will actually.

    Unlike you I won’t caveat murder. I condemn them all.

    Your approach, sectarian condemnation of sectarian murder, simply reinforces my original point. Even more so given that you seemingly so easily fall back on the default nationalist position of a hierarchy of murder.

    No doubt you’ll consider trotting out the old “war” nonsense, that, from your pointed use of the word “civilian” as a caveat, no doubt excuses, for example, the murder attempt on Arlene Foster’s father (and indeed on her too) by the likes of the father of the SF “Leader in the North”.

    Save yourself some time and forget about trying. The ‘our murders good wholesome war-fighting, your murders bad sectarian assassination’ nationalist argument is beyond tiresome.

  • Skibo

    I KNOW what you are saying and point out that it is wrong. PIRA are not in government. Stop trying to argue from a position that is 20 years old.
    Or am I missing something?

  • Skibo

    Nationalism never conceded on the issue of a unified Ireland. There is actually a strategy within the GFA for it to happen.
    I was merely pointing out that the democracy of Northern Ireland is built on an undemocratic sectarian head count.
    How can you praise the democratic process when it is based on a superficial democracy based on an inbuilt Unionist majority of one area of a country?
    As that inbuilt majority disappears, so to does the rational of maintaining Northern Ireland.

  • Skibo

    That is correct to a certain point . A point that Unionism completely ignored for many years in order to reduce any success in the North South bodies.
    The Assembly and the North South bodies are interdependent and one cannot stand without the other.
    The British Irish Council is different and I believe there is no stipulation that it cannot stand without the other two.
    The issue will be, without strand one and two, does the GFA stand for anything.
    Please remember also that Articles 2 and 3 were modified on the strength of the GFA. There would be nothing to stop the Irish Government reverting to the previous articles.

  • Skibo

    Surely you must be aware that the inception of Northern Ireland was based on a sectarian head count and done at the threat of a return to war.
    You still seem to be under the impression that democracy in the North began in 1922. It did not. Previous to that it was the will of a substantial majority of the Irish people that Ireland would be independent and governed by the Irish people.
    Tell me when Belfast returns a Nationalist majority, can they secede to Ireland?

  • Skibo

    Neville, I really appreciate it when someone argues a point from a position of knowledge and produces back-up.
    While I do not have the time at the moment to put together a reply, I remember some issue of the SAA referred to the inability of the British Government to just reimpose direct rule.
    Admittedly, all they have to do is produce another piece of legislation to superseded the previous act.
    I always find it intriguing that everything carried out by the German Government before WW2 was all legitimate as it was all passed by the German government prior to being carried out!

  • Skibo

    Marcus, a fine example of debating within the first paragraph. You fail to mention that the UK was in fact a union of Great Britain and Ireland. Notice the lack of any description of Northern Ireland prior to the 1921/22 era.
    I am sorry but you are incorrect in your analysis of how the North and South came into being. The island of Ireland seceded from the UK as a whole. The parliament in the North was given the power to apply to the King to be allowed to reenter the UK. I believe for seven days officially Ireland as a whole had left the UK as an autonomous area but not as wholly independent.
    The fact of splitting the country of Ireland was the undemocratic decision ans as you have shown, Unionism was the minority over the whole of the island.
    Unionists had gone through a series of discussions about what size the North should be. It was quickly realised that they could not hold the whole of Ulster as it was too Catholic and e would have reached the present demographics in a very short period of time. Originally they had set on the four counties as you mentioned but it was believed that such an area would be too small to govern successfully. There was some story about requiring Armagh and South Down to ensure a good water supply to feed Belfast.
    In the end, it shows that Britain pays lip service to democracy and when they have a result they don’t like, they change the parameters.

  • Skibo

    No, I don’t think they were sold a pup. I believe they realised they had to move away from the path of violence.
    The demographic issue is currently working its way through the system. It is visible since the number of MLAs per constituency was reduced and will be even more evident if and when the number of constituencies is reduced.
    In the end, parity in voting numbers will be reached by 2023. Interestingly enough, just in time for the Star Trek date of 2024.

  • Skibo

    Does it assist Unionism also for innocent people to get hurt? I think it may do. So any effect of innocent people getting hurt has effect on all sides politically.
    Too bad that the Unionist politicians thing refusing the ILA and same sex marriage is worth holding up devolution.

  • Skibo

    “Reunification has never been an extremist goal” If reunification has not been the goal, then what has?
    The issue has always been for the people of Ireland to govern the people of Ireland and for them to decide if they want a socialist society or whatever.
    Have I got this wrong all these years?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes if it all falls apart, the Irish govt could revert to that. But I doubt that is remotely something they would want to do. Articles 2 and 3 were irredentist fantasy anyway.
    The agreement says *all* its institutions are interdependent – it’s a single package. The British-Irish Council is specifically mentioned as part of that (Declaration of Support, paragraph 5).

    It would be interesting to see what positions the governments and the parties would adopt if the GFA was declared dead. Which of them really meant it and which were just pretending to want a fair deal for all? Answers on a postcard.

    But I do think it would be very hard to put back together again. Conditions in 1998 were very propitious for reaching an epoch-making settlement. We all did well to strike while the iron was hot. It remains a fair and comprehensive arrangement, it’s just that our politicians – and let’s be frank, many of us – have failed to live up to its values of decency, tolerance and generosity. We need to rededicate ourselves to it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    That is utterly irrational – makes no sense whatsoever.

    How else do you decide where to draw a border than have a head count And since when was that undemocratic? Democracy involved the counting of votes, which is what a “headcount” is, no?

    And it has been voted on, big time. Referenda north and south in 1998 approved the Good Friday Agreement, which said the participants “recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status”; that a united Ireland can only be achieved “with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland”; and that “the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, freely exercised and legitimate, is to maintain the Union and, accordingly, Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom reflects and relies upon that wish; and that it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people.”

    Of coure there is an “inbuilt” majority – all regions belong to the countries they do because of such “inbuilt majorities”. That is just the rational drawing of international borders. You must have been baffled when you studied the post-WW1 peace treaties, with their regional plebiscites in disputed provinces. True, the big powers sometimes went against the plebiscites (e.g. Upper Silesia); but Northern Ireland was not an example of that, it was clearly correctly allocated to the country to which most of its people had allegiance. And it has remained so ever since. No credible international legal challenge has ever been raised. Hardline nationalists in the Dublin government considered it after the war, sought legal advice and were told in no uncertain terms they had no valid claim to Northern Ireland the ICJ would recognise.

    Sorry, game over on that, really, a long time ago. Let’s move on please.

  • ronanpeter

    I meant that reunification is not extremist but an acceptable goal. In the past certain sections would have seen Nationalist ambitions in such a light.

    Reunification is certainly the overriding political project of Nationalism. The problem right now is that many of our elected Nationalist politicians are abdicating their responsibilities in governing for vital public services to pursue it. The definition of opportunism or even stage management if you take a more sinister view.

  • Marcus Orr

    I freely admit that “Northern Ireland” did not exist as any sort of entity, or in any sort of thought, prior to 1921. It was born out of the situation on the ground. You cannot blame the British or the British Govt. either for their decision to grant what both parts of the island clearly wanted. We had a large body of people in the South who wanted independence, and a large body of people in the North who wanted no such thing, and so if you have to blame anyone for the partition that was effected, you have to lay the blame squarely at the feet of us (the unionists). Perhaps nationalists could also ask themselves why unionists felt so unhappy and uneasy about the prospect of having an independent Ireland. Perhaps unionists should ask themselves if they weren’t just a little too stubborn and mistrusting of the nationalist majority. But I don’t see how one can criticise the British govt. for being undemocratic in splitting the island – they were very democratic and made a compromise in which both parts were respected in the end.
    I said somewhere else the error that the British govt. did make was to establish a devolved regional parliament at Stormont. Northern Ireland should have been directly integrated into the UK from the beginning and ruled just like any English shire or Scottish borough. The real mistake was to allow Stormont with its built-in majority for one community vs. the other minority community. That ensured that sooner or later problems were bound to come up.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I wouldn’t disagree with that too much.

    The one question might be about the proportion of the nationalist population in NI who might ever realistically have been content with the status quo. Is it fair to think that fairly consistently around one third would have been quite implacably Irish Republican, about one third getalonger-ist centrists and the other third somewhere in the middle? So perhaps the upper end of how many would ever have been happy in even a much more benignly and well run N Ireland within the UK might be, upper end, about a half of nationalists? I’m not sure any higher a proportion could ever be realistic.

    Opposition to the state was indeed fuelled by its failings as you say, but did not originate with them. It was (and still is for some) an ‘in principle’, absolute oppostion to the very idea of the state. That those running the state also proved often inept and in some cases unfair for a number of decades was grist to the mill of course, but the mill was already built and in full operation for a good chunk of the nationalist population. Indeed, the realisation that attempting to defuse nationalism with bona fides was almost certainly politically futile no doubt informed attitudes in the UUP in that era. It’s an attitude that survives to this day and I’ve heard it many times from more hardline unionist friends: “There’s no pleasing them anyway, so why try?” It’s a huge error of course and deeply wrong, but nationalism’s refusal to be wooed created a certain logic behind that that put moderate unionists like me on the back foot against hardliners. The latter often looked vindicated, pointing to the latest silence over an atrocity, or piece of ethnic eyepoking from nationalists. “But we have to do the right thing anyway,” one would plead. And of course one looks a naive fool in their eyes for believing a bit of fairness and kindness could make a difference.

    That’s my take anyway, could be wrong – educated guesswork only.

  • Neville Bagnall

    I’m no expert either, but here is my thinking:

    Article 3.2 of the Irish Constitution is specifically there in order to allow the Implementation Bodies to exist:

    “2. Institutions with executive powers and functions that are shared between those jurisdictions may be established by their respective responsible authorities for stated purposes and may exercise powers and functions in respect of all or any part of the island.”

    The regulations they apply have to be agreed by both jurisdictions through the NSMC. My impression is, in practice, this has meant they have mostly been applying EU regulations.

    Since the BA/GFA does not include a Judicial Institution, I believe jurisdictional disagreement on application of the agreement is ultimately a matter for arbitration or possibly the International Court of Justice.

    For the institutions, in their administrative operation, I think they would be subject to judicial review in each jurisdiction. This might give rise to conflicting judgments (jurisdictional disagreement), but again, I suspect in most areas they currently operate this has meant the CJEU/ECJ is the court of final appeal, thereby removing the problem as long as both jurisdictions remain in the EU.

    I think you can see the spanner Brexit throws into all of this.

    None of it is insurmountable. But it has the potential to be political dynamite. And you can see why it got its own strand in the Brexit negotiations.

  • Neville Bagnall

    From Newton Emerson’s very good article in the Irish Times:

    http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/london-and-dublin-must-be-very-careful-on-the-north-1.3211465

    “… Sinn Féin claimed the alternative to devolution was not direct rule but ‘a form of joint authority’. The republican party made this claim on the basis of a 2006 statement from then taoiseach Bertie Ahern and prime minister Tony Blair, as they were cajoling the DUP into signing the St Andrews Agreement, which created the first DUP-Sinn Féin executive.”

  • Aodh Morrison

    If you had read any unbiased history you might grasp an understanding that partition did not start out as the unionists’ preferred option.

    Events, dear boy, events (especially the intransigence shown by Irish nationalism concerning any consideration of unionist fears) lead to partition. Once that ball was in play it was inevitable that it would be played.

    Even after partition began to become a reality nationalists adopted the attitude that NI was not long for this world. Unlike unionists marooned within the forming Free State northern nationalists held to that position and never attempted compromise with the new political reality. Any attempt by NI to play fair in the early years of its formation, for example setting aside one third of the places in the newly created RUC for Catholics, were rebuffed or ignored in the belief that NI would fall within a few months or years.

    Indeed shunning NI was not enough for many in the nationalist community. Nationalist inspired violence was a feature of every decade of the 20th Century, and yes a nasty unionist dynamic was also there too. Is it any wonder that suspicions were fostered and grew between the two communities in NI?

    If, as you state, NI “was based on a sectarian head count” do you apply that argument equally to the formation of the Free State?

    Sectarianism was present in NI, it was evident too in the corridors of power. Yet no overt sectarian laws were ever passed in NI, nor did the courts enforce a sectarian bias.

    The situation was different in the Republic. The Catholic Ne Temere doctrine was given the force of law by a judgement in the Irish High Court. I’ve no need to elaborate on the power exercised by the Catholic Church in the mechanics of the Irish State. A factual reality that has only been eroded within relatively recent times.

    Unionist concerns about ‘Home Rule being Rome Rule’ became actual reality by virtue of the actions of successive Irish Governments. Perhaps in hindsight looking south the decision to support partition increasingly came to be viewed by unionists as the correct political choice for them.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The ECJ though only adjudicates on matters of EU law. The British-Irish Agreement (which is the relevant international legal document, the treaty – the GFA itself does not have force of law) isn’t a piece of EU law. Indeed it actually applies regardless of EU membership (the UK Supreme Court in am extraordinary sitting of all eleven judges found unanimously on that – hard to see any other interpretation possible whether in Ireland or anywhere else).

    I think if there were jurisdictional disagreement on some aspect of the British-Irish Agreement, and it couldn’t be resolved, it would be the ICJ that the parties could turn to for a ruling on it.

    But I’m not sure I get why this question is political dynamite? Can you explain a bit more, I may not have followed.

  • Skibo

    First of all, there is no such thing as an unbiased version of history. Publishers produce history books for a certain market.
    Unbiased history is merely a selection of facts. How those facts are interpreted puts the biased version on it.
    Irish Nationalism wanted to take the country as a whole out of the UK. Some within Unionism wanted Ireland to remain within the UK. Carson would have been the main voice for this. Craig and Big House Unionism did not want to be controlled by Irish nationalism and stoked the idea of four Ulster counties remaining.
    You write your post implying that the Republican violence was from the Nationalist community but the Loyalist violence was from a rump of the Unionist community. This is a biased version of history also.
    This is not backed up by facts.
    There were many decades virtually free of Republican violence. There were no decades free of the use of sectarianism within Northern Ireland. Sectarianism directed against the Nationalist community. The figures show a much larger percentage of the Catholic population emigrate than the compared to the protestant community.
    The sectarian suspicions were fostered by big house Unionism as they knew the growth of the Nationalist community would upset the unnatural sectarian head count.
    You condemn the setting up of the ROI (as was) for being a sectarian head count but that was the result of the partitioning of the country and not the proposed solution by the majority of the country.
    “Sectarianism was present in NI, it was evident too in the corridors of power. Yet no overt sectarian laws were ever passed in NI, nor did the courts enforce a sectarian bias.”
    We can agree on part of this, sectarianism was present and definitely in the corridors of power but have you not heard of the “Special Powers Act”. A piece of legislation that apartheid South Africa looked at in envy.
    The situation in ROI, indeed had far too much control by the Catholic Church. This would not have been possible had the island as a whole parted from the UK. The Unionist community in the North abandoned their ability to direct the formation of the country along with the rest of the Protestant community on the “wrong” side of the border. Ulster Unionism was not interested in the Protestant community per-say but merely interested in power and used the fear within the Protestant community of being immersed in an overtly Catholic community to subvert their control over the North.
    “Unionist concerns about ‘Home Rule being Rome Rule’ became actual reality by virtue” of the Big House Unionism rejecting their responsibility in the formation of a country. Hopefully they will take ownership of the New Ireland that could now be on offer before the weight of the increased nationalist vote takes on a movement of change all of its own.

  • Skibo

    Marcus you lay the blame for partition on both sections of the community but Nationalism did not want partition. They actually fought a civil war on that very issue.
    The Tory party placated Unionist Big House into pushing for part of the island to remain within the UK
    I believe that Protestantism was in fear that a staunch Catholic country would have used their political mandate to penalise the Protestant faith. What they failed to realise that while the country of Ireland was going through the process of achieving an element of independence, they could have used their participation and agreement in that process to bargain protection and put in legislation a requirement for the Protestant faith to have parity with the Catholic faith. In essence the civil and moral obligations of the two faiths are very similar.
    I do blame the British Government for an undemocratic decision of partition. Partition is the mainstay of political violence in these islands. All other reasons, slanted legislation and the enactment of political power in a sectarian bias can be routed back to this decision.
    If the decision of partition was democratic and respected by both sides, why did the British Government have to resort to the tactic of threatening all out war if the treaty was not accepted?
    Why did the Nationalist side go through a process of civil war against the acceptance of that treaty?
    Why did Stormont feel it needed the Special powers act t control the Republican community?
    Why did Unionist politicians refer to Stormont as a Protestant parliament for a Protestant people?
    Northern Ireland cannot be controlled by Westminster. The majority of British politicians have now accepted that. It is not an Irish shire of a British Lordship.
    Big house Unionism did not care about working class. They treated the protestant working class with as much disdain as the Catholic working class. It was just that more of the catholic community were part of that lower class.
    Northern Ireland was the last area of the UK to adopt one man one vote, preferring to stay with business men and house owners having a much increased mandate.
    In the end the Unionist community rejected their democratic duty in the setting up of Ireland as an independent country.

  • Skibo

    I do not see it as an abdicating of responsibilities to push for reunification on the tail of Brexit.
    Brexit will have a detrimental effect on the North no matter whether it is soft or hard. The only difference will be the extent of that detrimental effect.
    Reunification will also have a short term detrimental effect. Why not combine the two and find the cure once, rather than go through the pain twice.
    In the end reunification is coming, whether it is in five, ten or maximum fifteen years. It is coming.
    Brexit will have a serious effect for around ten years if you take into account the general time it takes to form trade deals.
    With reunification, we walk back into free trade with the rest of Europe and trade deals with over fifty countries.

    Republican and Nationalist politicians have not abdicated their responsibilities for the past ten years but the DUP are still at the starting post in sharing power. What is the point in re-entering a process where the DUP have shown consistently that they are incapable of voluntary change?

  • Skibo

    I accepted the GFA and voted for it in the belief that Irish culture would be given parity of esteem to that of British culture and it had a democratic process inbuilt for the reunification of Ireland.
    The process of achieving that reunification is not undemocratic or political destabilising but just the normal process of a region changing politically.
    What I will not accept is that democracy suddenly was awarded to the people of Northern Ireland with the process of Partition. Ireland was, is and always will be the island of Ireland. For the process of imposing a sectarian imbalance in the way that the country was ruled, the Tory party along with Big House Unionism concocted an unnatural hinterland where Big House Unionism could control the Protestant community with fear of their neighbour and the Catholic community with the Special Powers Act.
    Have a look at the way Britain controlled countries under it’s empire. They created countries with inbuilt majorities and minorities and then put the minority in control.
    In the end partition was a sectarian decision to form a man made majority for Unionism within the North. The fact that the South was an even larger majority Catholic and Nationalist community is neither here nor there. There always would have been a Nationalist majority.
    OK we can move on but please stop ranting on about how democratic Northern Ireland is. democracy is not at it’s roots or even present during the first seventy years when power was used and abused to maintain that sectarian head count.
    Also stop rabbiting on about republicanism using the democratic process to further the project of reunification. It is their democratic right.
    You can tell us all about how our lives will be much better than they have been in the last ninety five years under British rule and I, and those like minded people will continue to push for a reunified Ireland in the knowledge that following a couple of lean years we will join in the strides that Ireland has done to produce one of the fastest growing economies in the EU.

  • Skibo

    I too believe that if the GFA falls, it will be extremely difficult to put back together. I do not see Nationalism accepting an open ended process to a border poll and see the latest speech of Gerry Adams as merely a repeat of thinks I hear in every day life.
    At some stage Unionism is going to have to accept that they are well past the pinnacle of their control of the Northern Ireland. It may be better to seek the best deal possible for a New Ireland now, rather than have what I hear muted as a “sure we can wait it out and tell them how it will be”
    How they prepare their community for this, I am not sure but at some stage the penny must drop.
    Peter Robinson was at that place in 1991 when he walked away in 1987. I believe a trip to South Africa had something to do with his return.
    He was on to something when as leader of the DUP and FM he talked about garnering support for the Union within the Catholic community but the hard line has too great a hold on both his party and the UUP for such an ambitious plan.
    Mike’s plan to give second preferences to Nationalist politicians in the form or the SDLP rather than the DUP was his sword of Damocles.
    The majority of the Unionist community see any dilution of Unionist rule as a sop to Republicanism and that in our ever increasingly liberal society will be their end.

  • Aodh Morrison

    I didn’t “condemn the setting up of the ROI”. You’re the one in the condemnation business. I asked if you applied a similar dynamic to the formation of the Free State as your use of the term “sectarian headcount” in relation to NI.

    Go back to your history books and tell me the decades in the 20th Century that did not see nationalist violence – the point I made. Perhaps you use “virtually free” as weasel-speak, or your argument is based on a ‘little’ murder being ok?

    My argument was that by keeping the pot boiling, or even on a low simmer, facilitated the so-called ‘siege mentality’ and provided an open goal for the more extreme unionists to score with their orange ball.

    How do you think the Republic would have developed if every few years “Empire Loyalists” or the ‘West Brit Liberation Army’ had set off bombs or murdered a Guard or two?

    I’m interested in the “Special Powers Act” you cite. Please tell me the clauses within that piece of legislation that were, ‘a’, inspired by Protestant church teaching or doctrine, or, ‘b’, that specifically targeted individuals solely on the basis of their religious beliefs; as opposed to say their political ideology? You know something like the sectarian law that I referenced in the southern Irish context.

    Sectarian (naturally) unionists didn’t want to “upset the unnatural (?) sectarian head count”. So they applied health, welfare and education legislation across the board. Was that the dastardly ‘plan’? It didn’t work, the Catholic population within NI grew year on year (the Protestant population in the ROI shrunk significantly).

    Finally, I like the way you blame unionists for the sectarian Catholic state that developed in the south (it goes without saying of course that in your opinion they are also to blame for the Protestant version north of the border).

    And your piece ends with a threat – agree with us this time or you won’t like what happens. Some nationalists never learn. Perhaps they just can’t help themselves.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “Unionist rule”? There hasn’t actually been unionist rule since 1972. As I keep saying, unionist people are in a different place I think from what you imagine. People of my age and younger, and I’m 47, have no experience of unionist rule. This idea that unionists somehow expect either to run things on their own or to dominate is for the birds. What we want are the GFA institutions working and a fair sharing of power with nationalists.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    and you’re arguing democracy suddenly was awarded to the people of N Ireland in 1998 and before that it was undemocratic.

  • Marcus Orr

    I don’t have a big issue with any of the points that you raised, though a lot of it is to my mind a matter of perception.
    The only clear factual error that I have to point out is that the civil war fought and all of the discussion in the Dail in 1921-22 was not at all centred on the question of the 6 counties. The main reason of contention was the commonwealth status of the Free State and the fact that Dail representatives would have to sign a oath of allegiance. The non-acceptance of the Treaty was linked to this point, and not to the question of “North-East Ulster”.

  • Mary Russell

    I’ll grant you that terrible wrong and deeds were done by both sides, none of which can be condoned, and there was a lot of “eye poking”too from all sides, but the sad fact is due to the unfair constituency boundaries, the unfair voting systems of the past, the Unionists have always had the majority and therefore the “granting” of specific rights were within their power to bestow in a timely fashion. No community likes to be in a minority, constantly having to request, and ultimately fight for the their rights and equality. No one likes going cap in hand to beg for civil rights. It demeans and devalues a person. Had one man one vote, constituency boundaries, and job discrimination been dealt with early on, we mIght never had the civil rights marches and the subsequent violence that followed. But sadly we cannot change the past. No amount of recriminations will alter all that happened or erase the hurt that was caused. But we can learn from the past and not repeat the same mistakes.
    Currently Nationalists are looking for an Irish Language Act, amendment to the abortion laws, and marriage rights for the LGBT, similar rights as citizens in the rest of Britain have, and yet again Unionists delay, defer and procrastinate about allowing them. SDLP and Alliance also support the Irish Language Act. Regarding abortion and rights for the LGET community, I would imagine that there are Unionists who would support this and there are Nationalists who would not, but at least allow it go to a vote without the use of the petition of concern. I am aware of the deeply held conservative and religous beliefs of some Unionist and that is their right, but it does not give them the right to impose their values on everyone else and dictate how the rest of us live our lives.
    Given that the SDLP and Alliance in conjunction with Sin Féin want an Irish Language Act, why delay and obstruct the process. Given that the majority in Stormant voted for marriage for the LBGT community, was it right to use a petition of concern to block it.

    As for not “pleasing nationalist” and Nationalists refusal to “be wooed”, perhaps Nationalists don’t want to be wooed or kept happy by just being placated. Instead of just offering enough to keep “them” happy for now, why not treat them as equal partners, give their requests and suggestions serious consideration and then allow the democratic process to return and continue unhindered.

  • Skibo

    Marcus you have listened to the FG too much. Sinn Fein abstained from the Dail in protest to the abolition of the first Dail from 1918 which was set as a Dail for all Ireland.
    The fact that the execution of the British General Henry Wilson as the military advisor to Northern Ireland shows that the IRA had no love of the North East of the country remaining under British Rule. There is a belief that this was ordered by Collins himself. Hardly an acceptance of British control of the six counties.
    I find it difficult for anyone to separate the issues of the treaty and say that any one was acceptable to the Irish Nation to a greater or lesser extent.
    The Proclamation was written for a 32 County Ireland.

  • Skibo

    I am saying that the setting up of Northern Ireland was an undemocratic process and puts a taint on all decisions taken thereafter.
    You cannot say democracy is now cool in Northern Ireland as there is a Unionist majority, (oh sorry was!) and say it was not democratic for Ireland as a whole before partition as Unionism did not have a majority.
    Why doesn’t the Labour party demand self determination for the North of England where they have an inbuilt majority and let the Tories control the rest? That is your logic on democracy.

  • Skibo

    If that is the case then why are the DUP using their 30 plus percent to determine what is right for the North and what is wrong?
    As you are 47, you lived through the last years of the old Stormont. You saw the setting up of Sunningdale where Unionism agreed to share power and then realised their people wouldn’t let them.
    You lived through Drumcree where Unionism used the forces of the UVF to force a march through a Nationalist area.
    You have seen how the Loyal Orders used their power to ensure Nationalists did not buy Protestant property and land.
    If you are telling me that we have reached a new era where Unionism is accepting of it’s position within the community and that of Nationalism and accept the rights of each other to exist and have political views, then tell them to get on and enact the incomplete areas of the GFA and the SAA and treat their Nationalist neighbours with respect as equals. You do not have to be British in Northern Ireland. You can be Irish. You can have a belief in the reunification of our country and not be seen as dissident or destabilising.
    Unionism should see no threat from an Irish Language Act. It is not demanding every one learns Irish. It is not demanding the removal of English from signs. It is requesting the right of people to live their lives immersed in the Irish language.
    The issue of equal marriage will not mean the reduction of the rights of heterosexual couples. It will give equal recognition of the partnership independent of a person’s sexuality.

  • Skibo

    In your reply to my condemnation of partition as a sectarian process based on a head count, you tried to analyse the setting up of the ROI as sectarian yet it can only be sectarian because of the need for the North creating an inbuilt Unionist majority. Had Ireland been allowed to leave the UK, it would still have an inbuilt Nationalist majority.
    Look all the trouble that went on before the time known as the Troubles as nowhere near the level of the Troubles itself.
    Interestingly enough if you leave out the years 1932 and 1935 when major riots were the fashion particularly in Belfast and linked to Loyal order marches, between the years 1922 and 1950, there were 2 to 3 murders per year. In England and Wales with 30 times the population, the figure stood around 150 per annum.
    Pre-1922 was the exception. Within the two years up to June 1922, 428 people were killed. Two thirds were Catholic while Catholics made up only one third of the population. Hardly an example of republican violence and more one of Loyalist violence. During that time, it was estimated that 8,500 Catholics were driven from their jobs, 23,000 from their homes and around 50,000 left the North completely.

    The Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act came into being in April 1922. It gave the civil authority the right to impose the death penalty for certain firearms and explosives offensives. Flogging and imprisonment were imposed on others. Prohibiting inquests and arrest without warrant were permitted. These powers were able to be delegated to the lowest ranking police officer.
    Through January and February prior to this, 83 murders took place in Belfast and not one person was charged.
    In May 1922 there were 75 people murdered in Belfast, 55 of whom were Catholic. Craig used the Special Powers Act to intern 200 Republicans. No Loyalists!
    In 1933 the Special Powers Act was made permanent and still exists in the present day.

    The IRA ran what has been known as the Border campaign from 1956 to 1962. In all they carried out about 600 operations mainly in the border areas. All in all around 18 people died, 12 of them were IRA members! Not exactly what you could call a major offensive against either the State or the Protestant people. In the end the IRA leadership called it off in Feb 1962 due to lack of support.

    Education is an interesting issue. In 1923 the Education Act was passed. It was a sensible piece of legislation requesting pupils to be taught together without the need for religious instruction. The Catholic hierarchy refused to recognise the Northern Parliament and looked to Dublin while the Protestant clergy agitated ferociously for the inclusion of Bible instruction and through legislative amendments in 1925 and 1930 ensured the state controlled schools reverted to Protestant schools funded by the state with Catholic schools being funded at the start by the Southern Government. This remained the case up until 1947 when the state started partially funding the Catholic schools up to 65%.
    While I am unable to comment on health persay, the National Health Service did not come into being till 1948. The Mater Hospital was run by the Catholic Church and was not funded by the state right up until 1972
    The welfare payments in the North were substantially lower than the rest of Britain and were given out by the Board of Guardians in Belfast. The miserly payments were condemned by the Presbyterian Church and resulted in riots in 1932 with both sides united in their grievances. Craig divided the joint rioters by raising the constitutional position of the North, stating it would only change with the consent of the Belfast Parliament and making by the Special Powers Act permanent. He removed the power to pay welfare from the Guardians, imposed it on Parliament and raised the payments. Still below those of the rest of GB I am led to believe.
    All through this time gerrymandering was used to remove the Nationalist community from the corridors of power. Not only in Derry but Fermanagh and Tyrone.
    One further example of the lack of democracy or impartiality of the Belfast Parliament was the refusal of Brooke to introduce one man one vote in 1946 when it happened in GB.
    It was nothing to do with the Governing of the North that the Catholic community grew but more to do with the health and welfare society and the improvement of education. The Catholic community survived and grew in spite of the Belfast Parliament and not because of it.

  • Skibo

    I missed part of your post on the sectarian law your apparently referenced in the Southern Irish context. Perhaps you could elaborate. I would be very interested in looking it up.

    The only sectarian legislation I can remember is when De Valera used powers similar to the Special Powers Act to intern Irish Republicans during the 1956 to 62 Border campaign. Somehow I do not think you were referring to it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I was 2 when Stormont was prorogued.

    The rest of your post is irrelevant and largely wrong.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    agree with much of that

    worth noting though that in the 1921-72 period the UUP won Stormont elections because they got by far the most votes, not because of unfair boundaries or voting systems. The electoral malpractice you refer to was in at a council level in some councils west of the Bann. The problem with the old Stormont system was not that it was undemocratic, rather that the Westminster-style FPTP government by majority system is not best suited to an ethnically divided region where people vote according to their ethnic block – it meant nationalist parties had no chance of a share in government. Whatever other problems arose with UUP governments over the years, and there were plenty, it was really the failure to create at the birth of NI a consociational model of local democracy that was the biggest cause of the shortcomings of the 20s-60s period. The unfairnesses that transpired flowed from a system in which there was insufficient political competition, save for the brief period of relative NILP success.

  • Mary Russell

    However they obtained their majority, either by a straight vote or other means, the fact is that as a majority party in a divided society, there was an even greater onus on them to be seen to be scrupulously fair, meticulouly just and undeniably considered of the rights of the minority, and not be seen as advancing their own agenda to the detriment of the minority.

    I don’t remember who said this …
    “Of course, The test of a democracy is the vigour with which it protects the rights of those in the minority”.

    “The aim of a constitutional democracy is to safeguard the rights of the minority and avoid the tyranny of the majority”.
    Cornel West, Race Matters

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Totally right – the UUP and unionism more generally in that period failed to rise above its fear of Irish nationalism. It is still hard.

  • Mary Russell

    As it is for nationalist to trust a government who always dismissed their views and values. Perhaps someday, we will be mature enough to acknowledge the hurt and harm we caused to each other and realise we cannot change the past. We can certainly learn from it, we should not be repeating the same mistakes. Maybe then Northern Ireland and it’s people can at least live together.

  • Aodh Morrison

    Your comment on the Irish State’s Offences Against the State Act confirms that you do not understand the definition of the word ‘sectarian’.

    That being the case there is no point whatsoever in continuing this.

  • Marcus Orr

    Skibo, the murder in cold blood of Henry Wilson from Longford, Ireland by some Sinn Féin thugs in 1922 was just one of many reasons why we (the unionists) did not trust you at that time – don’t you see that? At that time you defined the minority Irishmen in the country – like Henry (the Wilson family had been in Ireland since the 17th century) – as foreigner Brits – and murdered some of them. Don’t you see how it was difficult for us at the time to believe that the majority would treat the minority with fairness ? You must see that, don’t you ? Part of my family are from Cork born and bred and they were poor farming folk down there, but they remembered the night in 1919 when the Sinn Feiner’s marched into their cottage and removed (stole) all their belongings – they were Protestants, so hey, why not?
    I’m sorry to engage in whataboutery and I’m well aware of the injustices that our people inflicted on yours on many occasions, but I’m just trying to point out that given the situation on the ground making the partition seemed a good idea at the time.
    I’m more interested in what will happen now than the past. I’ve indicated elsewhere that I’m aware that we Unionists have been sold down the river by the UK, since 1998 at the latest.
    I would sign up tomorrow for a United Ireland if we agree on:
    – a new flag
    – a new national anthem
    – changes to the Irish constitution to acknowledge the unionist minority
    – token membership of the British commonwealth
    How do you see that ?

  • Skibo

    Marcus, as we come from Northern Ireland i need to get the what aboutery out of the way first. I remember stories that my Great aunts and uncles told me about in the 1921/22 times. How two car loads of men pulled up outside our family home and proceeded to shoot out every window of the house. Little did they know that the family were staying overnight with some of our Protestant neighbours. and were safe. They told me similar stories of Protestants sleeping in Catholic houses overnight also. Well, that is that sorted out!
    In your comments on the criteria for a united Ireland, I refer you to the GFA which states that your rights to British citizenship will not end with a change to the constitutional situation.
    A new flag, I would be prepared to sign up to, but who sets the criteria?
    A new National Anthem, I have no problem with either as long as it is rousing and can be sung in both Irish and English and can be embraced by us all. I quite like Ireland’s Call but without a United Ireland, I have trouble buying in.
    Changes to the Irish constitution, are you proposing that a Unionist should have more rights than a Nationalist or demanding that Unionists have the same rights as Nationalists. I have a problem with the first and defend with every sinew of my being the second.
    What does token membership actually mean? Is it just a roundabout way of the British Crown continuing to have dominion over the country? That could be a stickler with a lot of people in the South even though they have an affinity with the Royal Family.
    Maybe it is just the title ” British” Commonwealth I have a problem with. See I never seen the British Empire as a Commonwealth, rather a means of directing funds from the peripheral to the centre, usually at the detriment of the donor.
    Maybe I am being pedantic!
    I will say we have numerous links with the rest of the Commonwealth and would have no problem embracing those links. Furthermore, I believe the fact of re-unifying the island will increase the relationship of Ireland and Britain in the future.

  • Skibo

    Aodh, I believe the act itself was not sectarian but the way it was enforced can be.

  • Marcus Orr

    I appreciate your response a lot and I’m sorry about what happened to your own family back in 1921/22. There are, unfortunately, a lot of idiots out there (on both sides I think) and some horrible things have happened.
    For the rest, here my comments:
    New flag: obviously that discussion could last ten thousand years if you let everyone have their say. The problem for us as Unionists is that the tricolour (even though we know well that the orange colour is for the Orangemen etc.) for us is something which we see only in commemorations or funerals for IRA members etc., so it is difficult for us to have any positive connotations with that flag…
    I do understand that the new flag can’t have a crown on it or the union jack in one corner like Australia or New Zealand (would be going too far I think for the ROI) but surely someone can come up with something completely different…
    The anthem anything but Ireland’s Call which is a terrible dirge. The soldier’s song is something which we can never identify with or sing. The words of Ireland’s call are actually quite ok and acceptable, it’s just the song itself which is crap… something along those lines would be fine…God save the Queen is dead and gone I know.
    For the changes to the constitution I do not mean that unionists would have more rights. I would just expect something really bland like a paragraph inserted saying the Irish nation is made up of many facets, including those of an Irish unionist persuasion, blah, blah etc. etc. Something general which gives the unionist on the street the feeling that a United Ireland is not a complete takeover or victory of one side over another in the North…
    (Of course in a united Ireland the word itself (unionist) could no longer exist, you would probably have to refer in the constitution to “those who identify with Britishness and the nation of UK” or something of the sort…(then we get into all sorts of issues concerning “loyalty” of unionist elected politicians in the North – oath of allegiance to the new Irish State against a (now foreign) nation UK ? (Reverse of De Velera’s problem back in the 20’s…
    For the Commonwealth I think that means absolutely zero actually. Australia, New Zealand and Canada have the Queen as official head of State, but are to all extents and purposes 110% completely independent of the UK, and have been since 2 generations at the very least. The problem is the whole Queen/King as figurehead stuff…obviously I know myself the South going to have that business after all that has happened. Maybe a new commonwealth category could be created / opened up ?
    I just want to find a solution in which we avoid new troubles, to be honest with you.

  • Skibo

    Marcus, a National Anthem waiting for a new Ireland.
    When boyhood’s fire was in my blood
    I read of ancient freemen,
    For Greece and Rome who bravely stood,
    Three hundred men and three men;
    And then I prayed I yet might see
    Our fetters rent in twain,
    And Ireland, long a province, be.
    A Nation once again!
    A Nation once again,
    A Nation once again,
    And lreland, long a province, be
    A Nation once again!
    And from that time, through wildest woe,
    That hope has shone a far light,
    Nor could love’s brightest summer glow
    Outshine that solemn starlight;
    It seemed to watch above my head
    In forum, field and fane,
    Its angel voice sang round my bed,
    A Nation once again!
    It whisper’d too, that freedom’s ark
    And service high and holy,
    Would be profaned by feelings dark
    And passions vain or lowly;
    For, Freedom comes from God’s right hand,
    And needs a Godly train;
    And righteous men must make our land
    A Nation once again!
    So, as I grew from boy to man,
    I bent me to that bidding
    My spirit of each selfish plan
    And cruel passion ridding;
    For, thus I hoped some day to aid,
    Oh, can such hope be vain ?
    When my dear country shall be made
    A Nation once again!
    Though the reference to God may cause concern with our multi cultural society.
    The flag may revert to the green with a gold border and a gold harp.
    As for the Commonwealth, I think that could be resolved with the point that the Crown is the figure head of the Commonwealth and there is no barrier to a Presidential head of a Republic within the Commonwealth. The issue will be, would Ireland reapply for membership before reunification to encourage Unionists or use it as a bargaining chip to get reunification over the line?