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£10bn April 29, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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There was an entertaining suggestion on slugger recently in comments from a couple of contributors where they noted that the subvention from London for NI was around £10bn. That’s not chump change and the idea was that…

That’ll be a on big red bus soon – if I was a cheeky Shinner I’d have it on the side of half a dozen buses in various Brexit voting cities.
” The annual subvention to Northern Ireland is a whopping £9.2 billion. It costs more for Northern Ireland to be within the UK than for the UK to be in the EU!
“Tiocfaidh ár lá” “

You know, that’s not the craziest idea in the world. And if it acceptable for the DUP to fund supplements during the Brexit referendum in London newspapers or much more recently to advertise as they do surely it is equally acceptable for SF to point up some of the facts of the broader relationships. Whether it would have quite the effect intended… well that’s another matter.

But it does raise a fascinating aspect of the issue. Or aspects plural. For a start there’s clearly a dearth of knowledge about the broader relationships and what underpins them. In the past Dublin ran campaigns (particularly in the late 1940s) attempting to publicise partition internationally and push back against it and directed to legislators in Washington while the Stormont governments of the same period produced a small library of texts and pamphlets directed at British parliamentarians about the threat from the IRA, why partition was justified and so on. But both those tended to try to engage political circles rather than broader populations in Britain. I wonder if the latter has it ever been done seriously by either republicanism or unionism?

Comments»

1. rockroots - April 29, 2019

As it happens, I’ve just been researching women’s unionist associations in the midlands, pre-WWI. There was a surprisingly sophisticated campaign between 1911 and 1914 which saw each branch assigned a marginal British constituency where the ladies would tour to canvass and speak to voters. The electorate, of course, was much smaller in those days, but they are credited with helping secure a few by-election victories. The ‘southern’ unionists could already see the writing on the wall once partition was suggested in 1912, and the men-folk did the more dignified business of lobbying MPs directly.

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Joe - April 29, 2019

Cool history. Another thing we didn’t learn at school.

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2. Joe - April 29, 2019

And then when the referendum on unity is called, you could sell off the buses to partitionists in the south who could use them to persuade southerners to vote no to a UI…

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3. An Sionnach Fionn - April 29, 2019

I think the strength of the anti-partition movement after WWII is largely forgotten. It really was something and not just the historical footnote that some have relegated it to.

Arguably its failure contributed to the post-war revival of the IRA – or IRAs at the time, including Saor Uladh – and the Border Campaign. Several republican memoirs make reference to it and the feeling of a sort of national humiliation when it was ignored by the UK and found little sympathy among the former Allied powers. Who naturally sided with the UK and not neutral Ireland and feared further political change in a Europe devastated by war and already consumed with an emerging Cold War.

I suppose you could point to the failure of the anti-partition movement as similar to the failures of the Home Rule movement. A cyclical pattern of political effort followed by military effort.

Which we might be in that moment again if one were to argue the long-term failure of the GFA rather than its medium-term success.

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WorldbyStorm - April 29, 2019

It was huge. Mass meetings, cross party political support, leaflets produced by the Dept of External Affairs. A real push at Washington. Agree, it had some very significant impacts, though probably negative.

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Joe - April 29, 2019

But I wonder did it change any unionists’ minds. I don’t think so!

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4. benmadigan - April 29, 2019

when the GFA was signed, Andrew Boyd, late Belfast socialist, remarked that it was only a pro-tem sticking plaster – not because of its creative ambiguity but because he recognized the “cyclical pattern of political effort followed by military effort”.

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An Sionnach Fionn - April 29, 2019

The sticking plaster on an open wound analogy always seemed a good one to me in relation to every attempt to mitigate the effects of partition.

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Joe - April 29, 2019

Ah now. The GFA, for all its faults, was and still is a lot more than a sticking plaster. If it is a sticking plaster, it was and is a pretty good one. Having staunched the blood that was flowing after thirty plus years of conflict.
Northern Ireland was and is a lot of a healthier place thanks to the GFA than it was in the thirty years before.

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An Sionnach Fionn - April 29, 2019

I agree. But the open wound remains. Sticking plasters don’t heal it, they just provide temporary relief from irritants and infection. The condition remains, the throbbing pain remains. And sooner or later the plaster peels off and the wound is wide open and exposed again.

Arguably every treaty, agreement, deal, constitutional change and pact for the last 60 years has been simply new iterations of the original 1921 treaty. And what’s that old saying about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time?

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Joe - April 29, 2019

The open wound being partition? Partition being the problem? The problem began in 1921?
The ‘problem’ was there before 1921 and will be there after any future removal of the border.
The problem is two competing communities/nationalities living in and sharing the same bit of ground and remaining obstinately separate from each other and always seeing everything as a competition with each other and being unable to work out a mutually agreeable way to live and share the same ground together. As John Hume would have said maybe?

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An Sionnach Fionn - April 29, 2019

In this case, yes. Sure, one needs to find accommodation between the main majority and minority communities on the island, to create a space where relationships can grow organically, to eventually develop some sort of agreed polity on the island. The GFA initially seemed a good mechanism to achieve that. However that approach has stalled, or was poorly implemented, and a return to the status quo ante of the DUP and SF administration at Stormont is unlikely.

Northern nationalism seems to have reconciled itself to the impossibility of a largely internal settlement. It is looking to a real and substantive all-Ireland accommodation, even if behind a sort of fig-leaf partition/border to persuade unionists. The soft reunification of the post-GFA years cannot be rolled back as the DUP would wish.

Whatever the question may be on the challenge of accommodating competing communities/nationalities in Ireland, partition is not the answer. Not now, not in the past, not in the future.

We are better than that and I fear that we will fall back to the sticking plaster solution, and will be back here again in a few months or a few years.

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WorldbyStorm - April 29, 2019

“Northern nationalism seems to have reconciled itself to the impossibility of a largely internal settlement. It is looking to a real and substantive all-Ireland accommodation, even if behind a sort of fig-leaf partition/border to persuade unionists. The soft reunification of the post-GFA years cannot be rolled back as the DUP would wish.”

That is very much my feeling too. There was a soft-reunification – not in every area or aspect but in so many that it allowed for genuine progress.

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Joe - April 29, 2019

“It is looking to a real and substantive all-Ireland accommodation”. And the other crowd are looking for “a return to the status quo ante of the DUP and SF administration at Stormont” at best.
So what the two crowds are going to get is a row. Hopefully there’ll be enough sticking plaster to go around.
Surely to god by now we’ve learned that if one side pushes too hard one way or the other, things can get out of hand very quickly. Stall it on the push for a UI, brothers and sisters, for the sake of the children.

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An Sionnach Fionn - April 29, 2019

But where does that leave us? Perpetual Cold War in the north, stumbling from one fire to another, with politicians and governments serving as firefighters, with the best we can hope for being some slumbering embers everyone is worried will spring back into flames again some day?

Why not try something novel, like recognising the failure of partition and using the GFA to move forward towards a post-partition outcome?

I’m quite happy to accept compromise but wasn’t the GFA just that? It changed the dynamic for northern nationalists, in terms of simultaneously making them more comfortable in the north while diluting the border, but nationalists-unionist relations have moved only a small bit at the political and actual interfaces.

I could see joint-authority via a GFA 2.0 satisfying some northern nationalists but less than that would be just cosmetic. I could live with it and put reunification on the long finger. But I think we may have passed the point of no return into all or nothing territory for many in both communities.

We may have arrived at this point eventually, driven by demographics, but Brexit has accelerated it all. And poisoned it too.

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EWI - April 30, 2019

Stall it on the push for a UI, brothers and sisters, for the sake of the children.

I refer you to the sticking plaster of the start of this thread, Joe. The underlying problem is that one side is made up of religious and ethnic supremacists, and that ‘Northern Ireland’ was and is just an attempt to preserve this longstanding colonial imposition.

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5. CL - April 29, 2019

CCOB- “In the late 1940s and early 1950s he was employed on a virulent anti-partition campaign launched by the Foreign Minister, Sean MacBride, and universally supported by Irish political leaders. This denied the right of the majority in Northern Ireland to opt out of the Republic. O’Brien ran the Irish News Agency, which turned out propaganda. For all his later protestations, there is no evidence that he was other than enthusiastic about the policies he helped to propound.”
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/cruiser-crusade-targeted-haughey-in-gubu-years-26500874.html

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6. Bartholomew - April 29, 2019

‘The annual subvention to Northern Ireland is a whopping £9.2 billion. It costs more for Northern Ireland to be within the UK than for the UK to be in the EU!’

A particularly pedantic pedant writes: not really – £9.2 billion a year is about £180 million a week. The side of the original bus said £350 million a week.

Not that it isn’t a great idea though.

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