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A new united Ireland August 9, 2022

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Andy Pollak a weekend or so ago spoke at the 35th John Hewitt International Summer School. He had a number of ideas, primary amongst which was that the Republic is far from ready for unity. Can’t really disagree with that, or with his point that a united Ireland would usher in a very large population, close to a million people, with varying degrees of antipathy shading to outright hostility towards unity. He notes that many will have no allegiance to the state and will believe themselves to be British. All this is true. The argument that unionism in the south was folded in with no great problem in the 1920s and so too will unionism in the north follow suit has always seemed simplistic. 

Oddly, though, all this has been thrashed out on this site here over the years, resulting in some of us supporting a ‘reverse Good Friday Agreement’ as proposed by An Sionnach Fionn. Pollak may believe all this is novel but quite a few have been thinking about just these matters for quite some time, even predating Brexit and the increased possibility of unity. 

Anyhow, in fairness to Pollak, he has been putting flesh on his thoughts.

His suggestion is that unity will involve a constitutional system somewhere between federalism and confederalism, with some continuing role for the British government. To this end, Pollak made some “against the consensus” ideas to prompt future discussion, in order to redefine Irish unionism as a positive good, “rather than an unloved relic of hated British rule”:

  • a power-sharing regional government and parliament to continue in Belfast
  • Irish membership in the Commonwealth
  • the reactivation of the British-Irish Council
  • a number of Northern politicians to continue to sit as British legislators in the House of Lords
  • a reversal of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, so that the British government has the right to intervene to protect the interests of unionists
  • amending the Irish Constitution, to codify the recognition of the British identity of unionists
  • a new flag (e.g. symbols of the four Irish provinces, or a small Union Jack inserted in the orange band of the current tricolour)
  • a new, non-militaristic national anthem (e.g. Ireland’s Call)
  • a new, free, single-tier health service “without Catholic Church involvement”

Interesting. That raises a lot of question: for example, how the right of Britain to ‘intervene’. What precisely does that mean? Commonwealth membership for the whole island? Doesn’t the GFA in and of itself also codify recognition of interests of Unionists – not that that would be a huge stretch to accommodate? And so on.

But for me the key point is, whether sited between federalism and confederalism, that it would be the people on this island who made the primary decisions and that there were robust and substantive links across the island politically whatever about some residual links to the UK polity. As always, important to note that the issue of Scotland needs to be considered in all this and how that impacts on the nature of the Union and all matters adjacent to that.

Pollak points to joint sovereignty or joint authority as a stepping stone that might bring about the above situation more quickly. Perhaps so. I know Ben Madigan has long flown that flag.

Comments»

1. Gearóid Clár - August 9, 2022

There was a good interview last week on the IT podcast with Frank Connolly, author of “United Nation: The case for integrating Ireland”. I’ve not read the book, but he makes some strong points here.

https://www.irishtimes.com/podcasts/inside-politics/is-a-united-ireland-inevitable/

Liked by 1 person

2. benmadigan - August 9, 2022

Frankly with modern IT systems making bureaucrocracy much easier to cope with, I can’t see why each side can’t have what they want –

Nationalists/Republicans/Remainers permanently sign up to the republic, as per the GFA, with full rights and duties. No need to upset the majority of irish people by changing flag, national anthem, re-entering Commonwealth, keeping the Queen as head of state etc to pacify a minority of unionists

Unionists/Loyalists/Brexiteers stay with the UK, with the chance to renew or change the choice every 7 years as per the GFA.

In my view the latter group will grow smaller and smaller as time progresses.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - August 9, 2022

How would that work in the public space though – in NI? WRT to flags, policing etc?

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Tomboktu - August 9, 2022

Also: would that mean next door neighbours in Belfast could be paying different rates of income tax and getting different pensions?

Would funding and support for elder care be different, with some getting a UK-funded service and others an Ireland-funded service?

If not, would the ability pick your preferred flag satisfy people if either they pay tax to a state they don’t want to or they get a different deal for the tax they pay than the neighbour?

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benmadigan - August 9, 2022

would that mean next door neighbours in Belfast could be paying different rates of income tax and getting different pensions?
YES

Would funding and support for elder care be different, with some getting a UK-funded service and others an Ireland-funded service?
YES

would the ability pick your preferred flag satisfy people if either they pay tax to a state they don’t want to
NOBODY WOULD BE PAYING TAX ETC TO A STATE THEY DON’T WANT TO.
THEY WOULD ONLY BE PAYING INTO A STATE THEY CHOSE TO BELONG TO

or they get a different deal for the tax they pay than the neighbour?
YES. DIFFERENT STATES, DIFFERENT TAXES ETC

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WorldbyStorm - August 9, 2022

It sounds a bit like pillarisation… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pillarisation

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benmadigan - August 9, 2022

from your article on Pillarisation
“Each pillar may have their own social institutions and social organizations. These may include their own newspapers, broadcasting organisations, political parties, trade unions, farmers’ associations, banks, stores, schools, hospitals, universities, scouting organisations and sports clubs. Such segregation means that many people have little or no personal contact with members from other pillars.”
That’s basically what has been going on for most of NI’s 100 year old existence.
So what if it continues for a little longer with improvements? This time giving each “pillar” 100% what they want, (rather than forcing them into sharing institutions) as a transitionary measure towards a Re-United ireland.
Republicans/Nationalists/Remainers choose to join mainstream irish society and institutions . Unionists/Loyalists/Brexiteers don’t but can review their choice at regular intervals of time.

It’s one way out of the NI impasse

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WorldbyStorm - August 9, 2022

Interesting approach. I guess the problems would be around the intersections between different pillars. I think of policing. Or efforts to expand territorially.

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benmadigan - August 9, 2022

People choose what police force they want to deal with. Since most of the border counties support SF I would imagine most would want the gardai.
Belfast is a mosaic of areas so a bit trickier. West belfast and parts of North belfast would go for gardai while East Belfast, like East Antrim etc would opt for PSNI.
I don’t see why both police forces can’t co-operate on most crimes

WRT to flags?
Each area would fly the flags they want.They do so already anyway.

Middle class areas on both sides tend not to fly flags or paint kerbstones as they lower the value of their properties.

Neutral areas like Belfast City Centre – no flags or both

Contested areas – majority view of residents with police to enforce decision, unlike today where police, council, community workers all play pass the parcel and drop the hot potato when it comes to determining whose responsibility it is to remove unwanted /illegal, paramilitary flags

Orange order marches only where they are wanted or re-routed to remote locations or in stadiums as ticketed events

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3. LMS - August 9, 2022

Federated states of Britain and Ireland (South England, Cornwall, North England, Wales, Scotland, Southern Ireland, Northern Ireland maybe even the Isle of Mann as the federal capital) would be a good solution in general if we could make sure the Tories weren’t running the show.

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WorldbyStorm - August 9, 2022

Definitely have to break up England. The imbalance with respect of power/population etc would mean any federation would be dangerously tilted to there. But I suspect that that at the moment and for quite some time to come is a non-runner. Sentiment here and in Scotland would be far too sharply against it. That said there’s good arguments for close cooperation between all the areas you mention.

Liked by 1 person

4. Jim Monaghan - August 9, 2022

We need many discussions to tease it out. “The debate on Irish Unity has been alive across the media and in academia across Ireland, the EU, and the US.

One upcoming book caught our eye. It will be published in October and written from the perspective of someone brought up in a unionist community who now supports Irish Unity.

The book is called Irish Unity: Time To Prepare and has been written by Ben Collins.

Mr. Collins wrote how the Good Friday Agreement, Brexit, and Scottish Independence movement impacted his thinking.

“My conversion to the New Ireland cause was not an overnight decision and predates Brexit. I have always felt Irish and while initially, this was in addition to feeling British, my thinking has changed over time.

There are many people like me who come from a Unionist and British background, who want to be part of the European Union and are now open to the idea of Irish Unity. They want to know what does Unity mean for the health service, pensions and the economy.

“https://www.friendsofsinnfein.com/post/a-journey-from-unionism-to-irish-unity?fbclid=IwAR37OzxQ_tBdOG9tEyEZKVpRKsCZGuBknt2kxtZP5gYaQ6vaKYiNccC1POQ

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5. NFB - August 9, 2022

-a power-sharing regional government and parliament to continue in Belfast

Sure.

-Irish membership in the Commonwealth

Absolutely not. If the Commonwealth wants to magic up some kind of observer status for Northern unionists that’s their business.

-the reactivation of the British-Irish Council

Maybe? Depends on its remit.

-a number of Northern politicians to continue to sit as British legislators in the House of Lords

-Don’t really see why London would allow this, but whatever.

-a reversal of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, so that the British government has the right to intervene to protect the interests of unionists

Absolutely not.

-amending the Irish Constitution, to codify the recognition of the British identity of unionists

Maybe the unique identity of unionists, leave the British out of it.

-a new flag (e.g. symbols of the four Irish provinces, or a small Union Jack inserted in the orange band of the current tricolour)

Sure, on the new flag. Of course not on the Union Jack.

-a new, non-militaristic national anthem (e.g. Ireland’s Call)

Yeah, yeah.

-a new, free, single-tier health service “without Catholic Church involvement”

Can’t we just do this without unification?

Liked by 4 people

WorldbyStorm - August 9, 2022

Good question at the end. I’m with you pretty much (I think one could perhaps have an element of the Union Jack as the SA flag does without it being the Union Jack in a new flag but no more than that – certain not the Union Jack), bar I think re the Commonwealth perhaps the six counties could have a relationship if they want to – perhaps that’s along the lines of what you’re saying some sort of special status. But not for the rest of the Republic. That’s a good point re would London want Unionist peers. But hey, I don’t have any problem with it.

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6. An Sionnach Fionn - August 9, 2022

Personally I favour regional devolution for the north within a Reverse GFA under an otherwise unitary state. Fortunately or unfortunately it will probably be one that more or less looks like the existing model. I think the inherent conservatism, centralising impulse, and obsession with “legitimacy”, will make the Irish state adverse to any radical outcomes following north-south referendums.

I can’t see federalism or confederalism appealing all that much to the Irish establishment if it means Dublin and Belfast equally balanced on the constitutional scales. Dublin will want to rule the roost. It’s part of the institutional culture of Leinster House and the main parties. Why would they want to compete with a rival authority on the island, trying to divide up a con-/federal government, competing for the resources/finances of the State?

And what do you do if populations in Fermanagh, Tyrone, Armagh and Derry insist on being in the southern half of the con-/federation? You end up with a rump Two County state? At least a Reverse GFA can be sold as a form of continuity rather than a radical shakeup, one that those north of the border might settle for.

Whatever the case, post-border poll negotiations are going to make for high drama. Things could get seriously Belgian! 🤔

Liked by 3 people

NFB - August 9, 2022

Or Bosnian-Herzigovinian more like

Liked by 2 people

WorldbyStorm - August 9, 2022

Whatever the case, post-border poll negotiations are going to make for high drama. Things could get seriously Belgian! 🤔

Yikes.

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An Sionnach Fionn - August 9, 2022

I suspect there will be some attempt to maintain the territorial “integrity” of “Northern Ireland” after reunification, with reference to the spirit of the GFA, and minimising the transition from UK rule, and a load of blather about unique northern identify, and reassuring unionist communities, etc. I’m not bothered about it. Whatever works.

That said… I could see the democratic argument for mini-plebiscites, based upon local government or parliamentary boundaries in the north, to allow local populations to confirm whether they wanted be in the “north” or “south” after reunification. Presuming an internal administrative border remains.

That could lead to a more manageable “northern” entity that could, conceivably, have more autonomy in a unitary state. At least it would be interesting for tourists. Look at how many people visit enclaves and exclaves around Europe. Visit the friendly folk of Ultonia!

https://www.euronews.com/2018/03/21/still-standing-out-europe-s-unique-enclaves-and-their-complex-histories

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Blade Sprinter - August 10, 2022

The suggestions do emanate from a source of good intentions. However, they make the fatal error of not fully comprehending the nature of Unionism. It is genocidal, settler-colonial imperialism. The psychology of this type cannot accept compromise it is perceived as weakness and an invitation to grab more.

So anything that preserves the political construct of Unionism is a really, really, really bad idea as it will perpetuate the festering pestilence of “Kill All Taigs” sectarianism Unionism still cannot bring itself to condemn. That includes preserving partition. If there is to be a Stormont it should include all 9 counties of Ulster, or better yet not be continued at all.

50 years of Home Rule movement – Unionism responds with violence.

60s Civil Rights movement – Unionism responds with violence.

GFA – Unionism sought to put a hard border on the island via Brexit and retains 12.5k armed paramilitaries and drops heavy hints of “not meekly accepting a UI”. Which all know means bombs in Dublin and dead Catholics on the streets of Belfast.

Unionism has had its three bites of the apple. The best path forward for re-unification is not to provide life support to this political movement. To do so is to court eternal sectarianism in the north. When we end partition, we have to really end partition. Not preserve it.

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WorldbyStorm - August 10, 2022

“ So anything that preserves the political construct of Unionism is a really, really, really bad idea as it will perpetuate the festering pestilence of “Kill All Taigs” sectarianism Unionism still cannot bring itself to condemn.” Not entirely convinced bespoke approaches can’t work but do agree with you in the above in respect of the lack of effort in unionism to face up to aspects of itself.

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