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One rule… June 25, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Thought it very striking the disparity between different expressions of allegiance to national identities we have heard in the past couple of weeks. With the arrival of a new leader of the DUP and the UUP we heard – entirely understandably, a restatement of their adherence to the union. Similarly with the speech given by former First Minister Arlene Foster. And each of those statements are clear expressions of not merely a national identity but also political structures that are the status quo in the context of the current dispensation. There was no criticism of these statements at the time – as far as I can tell by looking at the coverage – from any political leaders in republicanism or nationalism.

However, the relatively anodyne and heavily hedge statements by Leo Varadkar at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis where he expressed his identification with a United Ireland and hope to see one within his lifetime has been subject to considerable criticism from within unionism.

Unionists criticised the Tánaiste for making a strongly pro-united Ireland speech while a political crisis is unfolding in the North.

Former Stormont first minister Arlene Foster suggested Mr Varadkar’s remarks contravene the principle of consent enshrined in the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement.

Reacting in a post on Twitter, the recently deposed DUP leader said: “Does [Mr Varadkar] believe in the Belfast Agreement’s principle of consent for the people of NI or not? Seems not.”

Given that his statement amounted to ‘someday but not yet’ that criticism is clearly over the top. Varadkar was clearly talking about a UI through the processes explicit in the GFA/BA and it doesn’t really do any good to pretend that those processes forbid talk of either continuing the union or seeking a UI.

But the dynamic is worth considering. Because it appears that while it is entirely legitimate – as indeed it is – for unionists to express publicly their attachment to and aspiration that the union should continue in perpetuity it is somehow unreasonable and provocative for nationalists or republicans to do the same.

Again, consider what Varadkar said (and by the by, it’s an unusual place to be even part defending him, but also worth mentioning the frankly disgusting comments made by certain far right figures in relation to Varadkar which are deserving of complete condemnation).

…he said, “unification must not be the annexation of Northern Ireland. It means something more, a new state designed together, a new constitution and one that reflects the diversity of a bi-national or multi-national state in which almost a million people are British. Like the New South Africa, a rainbow nation, not just orange and green.”

He said that the Republic would need to change to accommodate unification.

“We have to be willing to consider all that we’d be willing to change – new titles, shared symbols, how devolution in the North would fit into the new arrangements, a new Senate to strengthen the representation of minorities, the role and status of our languages, a new and closer relationship with the United Kingdom,” he said.

And this, apparently, is unbelievably provocative. 

Then Brandon Lewis waded in saying on RTÉ that: “he “absolutely respects people’s right to have their say” but “sometimes it’s about what we say, the timing of what we say and when we say it”. “We should all be very cautious of what we say.”

To which, and I find it hard to believe I’m writing this, Simon Harris of FG made the perfectly reasonable point that:

“It has been a hell of a long time since any Irish ministers needed permission from the British government to make a comment at a political ardfheis.”

“I don’t comment on Boris Johnson’s constant rhetoric about preserving the union, in his sincerely held view in relation to that,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

And that point is entirely reasonable. It may escape Smith’s mind, but within the last twenty four months Johnson appeared at a DUP Annual Conference to extol the virtues of the Union. 

This imbalance between what is said and the efforts to circumscribe what is said is profoundly problematic. In fairness the UUP leader Doug Beattie was a bit more measured than Foster, but even there the idea that somehow discussing the issue of UI is unreasonable due to pressures within Northern Ireland at this time seems problematic as well. Certainly various leaders in unionism have not been shy in adding to those pressures in respect of the supposed indivisibility of the union and the Northern Ireland Protocol.

That said, as interesting in a way, politically, though is the idea of a Fine Gael branch in the North. The purpose of this is difficult to discern – and one wonders are they trotting after Fianna Fáil’s curiously inept bids to organise in that area.

He added that he proposed “to establish is a single branch for our members in Northern Ireland which have the same status of the constituency in our rules so they would have voting rights at the Ard Fheis, voting rights at leadership elections and voting rights on whether we enter coalition or not. It is not envisaged that we’re going to contest elections in Northern Ireland.”

It’s not exactly placing FG’s tanks on SF’s (or the SDLP’s) lawn, now is it?

Comments»

1. EWI - June 25, 2021

A state re-cast in the neoliberal, pro-capital image of modern FF/FG is not something we should look forward to. Party lists, an attack on PR, a restriction of the Presidency, ‘honours’, what else?

And I very much doubt that a real devolved govt would be allowed in the North; the overriding impulse of the southern political clique since independence has been to gather all reins of power into their own hands.

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benmadigan - June 25, 2021

“a real devolved govt . . . in the North” would be a dangerous set-up as it would risk prolonging division.
We’ve been there and done that under Partition. Would a similar set-up be much different without Partition?

A case could be made for expanding municipalities north and south so as to devolve some powers downwards throughout the reunited island

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2. NFB - June 25, 2021

Thought his comments were reasonable, but obviously had a purpose outside of the Ard Dheis in terms of firing a shot across DUP bows. No wonder they were rankled. Did enjoy Harris’ comment that you quote above, rare enough that someone in FG will so obviously “put on the green jersey”.

It would be nice if FG, or any party, would outline what it is exactly they propose a UI to actually look like in terms of what Varadker hinted at.

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3. deiseach - June 25, 2021

The comments “made by certain far right figures in relation to Varadkar” had a resonance for me. After all. if someone born in Ireland to a foreign parent and a parent from Waterford is not Irish, then my son is not Irish.

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WorldbyStorm - June 25, 2021

I feel the same way. I was born in London to a parent from Meath and a foreign parent who later took on Irish citizenship.

Of course by their ‘test’ neither Pearse nor Dev would be Irish either.

I’ve nothing but contempt for those people.

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4. Bagatelle's Unhijinxed Turkeys - June 25, 2021

In a UI the % of British Unionists in the north would be about equivalent to the % of those living in Ireland not born in Ireland.

Allowances for cultural protection of British identity in the north would surely have to be extended to the rest of our residents throughout the country? Especially as the former group will continue to decline in numbers while the latter will increase (and their children).

I know it’s not a popular opinion here but a UI is coming much sooner than people on this site believe and FG’s move north is because they see the same trend and are trying to take advantage of it by getting ahead of it. Why else is Varadkar taking this initiative? What is his political calculation and what payoff does he see?

Reflect on these questions:
1. How do you imagine the DUP and UUP are going to manage the NIP and ILA (well series of amendments not a full on act per se)?
2. How do you think the LCC’s umbrella group of Unionist terrorists is going to handle that reaction and this summer’s marching season?
3. How do you think Unionism in general is going to respond to SF taking the FM position at the next election?
4. How long before the LCC’s groups take to the streets in protest, or start shooting and bombing again like they did in ’66?
5. How do you think the electorate will respond to Unionist terrorism?

Look at the desperation in this year’s NILT:
Q1 Current Party Support/Q2 Vote GE19/Actual GE19
DUP:18%/23%/31%
SF:10%/11%/22%
UUP:10%/11%/12%
SDLP:12%/14%/15%
APNI:24%/28%/17%
GPNI:6%/4%/0.25%
Other:4%/2%/3%
None:8%/3%/0%
Don’t Know:6%/3%/0%

Each year the NILT’s sampling diverges further from election results, because it’s the only way they can get the Irish identity and support for re-unification numbers into the pro-Union range they want.

Thinking we have until 2028 is akin to sticking one’s head in the sand, especially as Brexit and NIP ensure that it’s coming sooner and with a boatload of pissed of Unionists too. If we don’t prepare it could all blow up in our faces.

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WorldbyStorm - June 25, 2021

I don’t think that it’s not popular, of course it would be great if there was a UI. It’s that the ground for thinking a referendum is in the offing which will be won by pro-UI sentiment doesn’t appear all that solid. Put aside NILT which few would disagree has problems and looking at the actual polling about a UI and the numbers just aren’t there to go into a referendum with any confidence that it would be won. Granted there’s fewer polls than anyone would want, but of four this year and three last year only one had a majority for a UI, and that was in October 2020 and that was a majority of 1% with 26% undecided. Those aren’t the sort of figures I’d want going into what the UK would present as a once in a. generational poll not to be rerun again until there was solid pro-UI sentiment.

I think Varadkar’s proposal isn’t thought through in the slightest, as Wes Ferry notes, it is contradictory and opens him up to significant problems wrt to other issues. But what it is seems to me to be an effort to peel away voters from FF who might see that as more robust than the watery line put out be Martin and perhaps even a few who’ve gone to SF (though I doubt he would believe that would have much effect). In other words it is shaped for domestic consumption.

I actually think that if there is a slight majority CNR population in the forthcoming census that might have an impact on unionism too – one wonders though would it be a positive one where there was an effort to move away from zero sum to something more expansive (even just working the GFA/BA in all its parts, not least North/South) would be a step forward or even beyond that again. I’m not confident. But I do think that that will signal something new.

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Bagatelle's Unbirthed Tensions - July 2, 2021

I mean the opinion that a border poll and UI is closer than 2028 is unpopular, not that a UI itself is unpopular. The NILT is sacrosanct gospel to a certain segment, the Unionist segment and defense of it is a great shibboleth for outing those who claim impartiality on the north. Fealty and the crew at slugger for example.

But is the fact that NILT had to push APNI support to 28% to get the answer it wanted on support for a UI is in itself a very strong indicator of how the electorate in the north is moving. If the Union was secure, the poll wouldn’t have to be so egregiously manipulated.

The LT polling and electoral outcomes, are 40% Unionist, 40% Nationalist and 20% floating. With the way Brexit, this summer and the next Assembly elections will play out those floaters are heading for a UI. Over the next two years that will become quite clear to those who now can’t see it.

I would not underestimate Varadkar, I am reminded of Haughey’s description of Ahern. He’s no fool and if he’s taking the risk and generating the problems you raise to move north it is because he sees a pay off in it down the line.

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EWI - July 2, 2021

I actually think that if there is a slight majority CNR population in the forthcoming census that might have an impact on unionism too – one wonders though would it be a positive one where there was an effort to move away from zero sum to something more expansive

I really doubt this, given the actual supremacist and reactionary underpinnings of unionism. A non-white majority in the US has just led to a decade and more of increasingly aggressive efforts to rig the electoral contest.

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WorldbyStorm - July 2, 2021

Completely agree re NILT, it’s a terribly worded poll and isn’t useful really.

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WorldbyStorm - July 2, 2021

Very possibly EWI.

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Bagatelle's Unjourneyed Things - July 2, 2021

I agree with EWI. The loss of supremacy in NI by Unionism will result in bodies. It will by 1966-69 again but worse.

Unionism has retained the Ulster Resistance weapons imported from South Africa an those made in machine shops in the 70s/80s for their doomsday plan. Unionism believes that its last card to play is Dublin & Monaghan writ large. With Enoch “Rivers of Blood” Powell’s acolyte in the ascendancy I don’t see any restraining hand on the troops.

WbS, re NILT – it’s useful for trends over time, exposing those claiming to be neutral and the degree to which the sample has to be perverted indicates the true situation. I must confess to finding it rather delicious to watch people ruin their credibility by defending it and denying that it’s sampling bears no relationship to reality. It makes their bias crystal clear, which illuminates interpreting their positions and arguments elsewhere as you now know they are either liars or fools.

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WorldbyStorm - July 2, 2021

That’s an interesting point re Ulster Resistance and those weapons – never decommissioned

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5. Wes Ferry - June 25, 2021

Fine Gael proposing that “our members in Northern Ireland which have the same status of the constituency in our rules so they would have voting rights at the Ard Fheis, voting rights at leadership elections and voting rights on whether we enter coalition or not” torpedoes their objections to those same Irish citizens in Derry or Belfast having the right to vote in elections for the President of Ireland.

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WorldbyStorm - June 25, 2021

That is an excellent point.

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