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Joint heads of state? October 5, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, Uncategorized.

Don’t laugh but Gay Mitchell may have a point about joint heads of state in Northern Ireland. Here’s what he said a while back…

Discussing a future role for the Irish presidency and UK monarchy in Northern Ireland, Mr Mitchell said: “What sort of thing could you do without diminishing the role of the President of Ireland under the Constitution?

“What could happen for example in Northern Ireland? Would it be possible to do what they do in Andorra and have joint heads of state in Northern Ireland in the context of a united Ireland?”

Mr Mitchell said that “ if we are really sincere about wanting to end partition, what sort of relations are we going to have with Britain”?

I believe that’s the crucial question, although the question works the other way too, beyond economics, that Republicans have to come to grips with. I’ve already raised this on the CLR before, suggesting, for example, that some of the compromises that may be necessary won’t be to the liking of everyone. Possible representation in the Lords? Flying of the two flags in the North side by side? Other East/West, or rather East/North East political links?

But this is what has to be tussled with in order to begin to define a future where we move beyond the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement to something more expansive, more… radical. A strange sort of radicalism some will, rightly, say if it incorporates a continued acknowledgement of a monarchy, but given the balance within the North the idea that that expression of identity of a million or so people can be jettisoned is implausible.

But in a way isn’t it intriguing how Mitchell sees this as happening in the wake of a united Ireland, whereas I’d see it as happening in advance of that UI. Actually, interesting that Mitchell would, even simply musing, express ideas that run further than the GFA. That may be good, or that may be bad.

Would this fly in the UK? I have absolutely no idea. Though it’s worth noting that as recently as 2001 the UK put forward the notion of shared sovereignty with Spain of Gibraltar.

But what is a pity is how rhetorical all this seems in light of the now sustained attacks by Fine Gael on an actual candidate from the North..

The interview with Harry McGee in the Irish Times on Monday gets it about right in that respect when it notes:

The major party in Government obviously doesn’t agree with the last sentiment. Yesterday Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan launched a nasty attack all but describing McGuinness as a terrorist who would alienate foreign investment if elected president.

In a follow-up tweet, Government chief whip Paul Kehoe bludgeoned in with a tweet on McGuinness’s offer to forgo most of his salary. “Why would you need your salary when you have the proceeds of the Northern Bank at your disposal?”

The attacks from such prominent party members have blown open any semblance of acceptance by Fine Gael of the concept of a Sinn Féin president; and any claim that McGuinnness’s good working relationship with Enda Kenny extends from North-South relations into domestic southern politics.

The TV3 debate saw precisely how pointed the attacks have become. Interesting, if only because Eoghan Harris in the Sunday Independent this week had moved on from his championing of Norris [Harris never been shy to jump another train as the need arose] to judge from his comments at the weekend…

And it seems like FG – according to him ‘standing up to the IRA is what FG is for’, an interesting thesis if one looks back at the historical genesis of FG, have heeded his message.

This may well be because of the latest polling data, more of which soon, which notes that:

When people were asked who they would vote for if the presidential election was held tomorrow, the figures (when undecided voters were excluded) compared to the last Irish Times poll on July 19th were: Michael D Higgins 23 per cent (up five points); Sean Gallagher 20 per cent (up seven points); Martin McGuinness 19 per cent (not in last poll); Mary Davis 12 per cent (no change); David Norris 11 per cent (down 14 points); Gay Mitchell 9 per cent (down 11 points); and Dana Rosemary Scallon 6 per cent (not in last poll).

9% for the governing party is lamentable. FG aren’t even holding onto their core vote here and that’s – no doubt – why they’re trying to consolidate it. I’m not sure this works, and I’m fairly sure that this points to what was discussed here recently, the reality that the electorate remains much much more volatile than was thought previously.

Anyhow, all this seems an odd way to try to cement reconciliation on this island – not least because McGuinness is unlikely, on current polling, to win the contest. There’s another point too. However acceptable SF becomes it seems equally unlikely that its appeal will be broad enough to encompass many FG voters – whereas it has and most likely will do further damage to Fianna Fáil.


1. Paddy M - October 5, 2011

Perhaps Liz could appoint Gay as Governor-General.

Because he sure as hell isn’t going to get elected as President.


WorldbyStorm - October 5, 2011

Yeah, just saw the latest polling data, and added in a quote from it above. Fecking hell. This is disastrous for FG. It really is.

I find it interesting that Gallagher is well ahead of Davis. Maybe his no poster ploy is going to reap dividends – though I don’t think so!


Paddy M - October 5, 2011

I find it interesting that Gallagher is well ahead of Davis. Maybe his no poster ploy is going to reap dividends – though I don’t think so!

He’s kept his nose clean; he hasn’t attacked and he hasn’t been attacked (yet).

I am waiting with bated breath for the Stephen Collinses, the Eoghan Harrises and the Ger Collerans to admit that the attack-dog strategy that they’ve advocated long and loudly isn’t waiting for Mitchell, but I have an oxygen tank handy – just in case.


Paddy M - October 5, 2011

*isn’t working for Mitchell


WorldbyStorm - October 5, 2011

Too true. As someone said today to me, the sort of attacks Mitchell was coming out with last night just didn’t look… well… Presidential.


Paddy M - October 6, 2011

As someone said today to me, the sort of attacks Mitchell was coming out with last night just didn’t look… well… Presidential.

Eh, when did he ever look Presidential? He was the least attractive candidate that FG could have chosen to appeal beyond the ultra-hard-core Blueshirt vote (OK, Avril Doyle would have been just as bad for different reasons) but the arrogance of the newly-minted largest party in the State took over.


2. irishelectionliterature - October 5, 2011

I’ve heard a few people say they are going to vote for Gallagher, much to my surprise. I was at a school this morning where Gallagher visited earlier in the week, they were all very impressed with him. The FF link is there but he’s not exactly Bertie or Cowen.

Once Davis mentioned that she had taken money from Denis O’Brien combined with the conflict of interest story in the Indo her chances went.

No shock in the Norris figures and that poll was surely taken before we learnt of the disability benefit. If I’d a euro for every time I’ve heard “I was going to vote for Norris but…..”

Mitchell by attacking McGuinness has given the impression of being cantankerous. His performance on the radio with Dunphy last Sunday was crazy. He’s shown himself to be most unpresidential in character.

McGuinness has impressed me as the most statesman like of all the candidates and I’ve heard plenty of people say that too. However like myself, most of them wont be voting for him because of his past.

The only thing that can stop Michael D at this stage I think is his age. He’s coping well so far.

Another thing….
Given that it’s 12.5% of the vote on count eliminated to get some expenses ,then Dana, Mitchell ,Norris and even Davis could be sailing close to the wind regarding losing an awful lot of money in the campaign.

I also wonder how many undecided voters there are and how many committed voters there are.


3. Shay Brennan - October 5, 2011

Actually FG’s success has partly led to this problem. They have hoovered up ex-FF votes and are now a much broader party. Their core may hate SF but many of their new voters don’t care too much and some of them might just vote for McGuinness.


4. Nyles Bell - October 5, 2011

“However like myself, most of them wont be voting for him because of his past.”

All those years McGuinness spent working towards bringing the IRA into a solid, sustained peace process… that is what disgusts you about him?

It is what disgusts the real and continuity IRA, so at least you have something in common with the bombers of Omagh.

Southern Irish liberals. Spare us your handwringing.

Do you think the IRA would have signed up to the peace process if McGuinness had walked away and left the organisation in the hands of people like Michael McKevitt?

The Northern Ireland Peace Process has been the exception, not the rule.

Part of that has to do with the fact that people like McGuinness didn’t walk away, but stayed and brought almost the entire movement with them.


5. Pancho Villa - October 5, 2011
6. shea - October 5, 2011

FG below 10% is the story of the week hopefully the cut lasts for the next 3 weeks and after. journalists love sign’s and speculation and in a campaign with out much content what much else is there. articles about this and the creation of a self fullfilling prophesy.

nyles bells bit partitionist there with your southern irish liberals. theres no wrong way to vote. some people will give a tick for mcguinness because he was in the ra and the message that would send and some people won’t for the same reason.


CL - October 6, 2011

Under the alteration of Article 29 of the Irish Constitution the United Kingdom has been given political power, to a degree, over the Irish state. this was done to facilitate the Belfast Agreement. The ‘republic’ of Ireland is already tied to the U.K much closer than any Commonwealth country. Any further moves towards ending partition involves the ‘republic’ moving politically towards the U.K rather than Northern Ireland severing any ties with it.


Ramzi Nohra - October 6, 2011

genuine question – what political power does the uK gov have over the Irish state?


WorldbyStorm - October 6, 2011

I’d be interested in which part of Article 29 you believe confers such power to the UK.


7. irishelectionliterature - October 6, 2011

Red C Paddy Powere Poll

Higgins 25% (+7)
Gallagher 21% (+10)
McGuinness 16 (nc)
Norris 14 (-7)
Mitchell 10 (-3)
Davis 9 (-4)
Scallon 5 (-1)

More good news for Gallagher and Michael D here

Some interesting subplots from it too such as 10% of FG supporters voting for McGuinness.


WorldbyStorm - October 6, 2011

10%… very interesting, isn’t it?


8. Jim Monaghan - October 6, 2011

Can anyone remember the “Council of Ireland”, which was the pretext for the Loyalist lockout?
Can anyone see the current loyalists accepting something similar.


WorldbyStorm - October 6, 2011

Isn’t the North South Ministerial Council sort of that in a way?


9. Gay Mitchell: Blue Shirts And Blue Bloods « An Sionnach Fionn - October 12, 2011

[…] year, 2011, Mitchell talked about the Irish and British head of states becoming joint heads of state of “Northern […]


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