Sectarian Dynamic In Northern Politics The Consequence Of British Policy

Writing for TPQ on yesterday's election in the Six Counties, Sean Bresnahan, Chair of the Thomas Ashe Society Omagh, equates the rising nationalist vote in the north with increased desires for Irish Unity in that constituency. He writes here in a personal capacity.

Post the Westminster election and following on from the Stormont vote in March, while many lament the rise in Sinn Fein's vote as a 'slippage to orange and green politics', realpolitik and how Britain has set the rules for her leaving Ireland dictate that if there is to be a United Ireland that this, a reversion to the politics of orange and green, unfortunately must come to be. This is due to the contrived gerrymander that upholds the Union, not any failing or flaw in the character of Irish nationalism.

The sectarian headcount that clearly now is northern politics, while never what republicans would wish to see, is the outworking of British policy in Ireland and the British government's refusal to leave. Perversely, given that 'normalisation' is the only direction aside from this in which politics can travel, it is also, sadly, necessary if there is to be constitutional change.

The responsibility for the current state of politics here, then, lies with the British government and none other. With Britain having dictated, through the Framework Document and subsequent agreements imposed therefrom, that she will not relinquish her sovereign claim absent a confirming majority towards that end, it is inevitable that we will get this kind of election and election result. Expect nothing but the same going forward for as long as partition endures.

While Irish republicanism is about the unity of our respective traditions within an Irish Republic, conversely, given that Britain refuses our right to live under such a republic – preserving and encouraging for its own selfish interests the sectarian dynamic required to sustain her 'right to rule' – if there is to be a United Ireland, given that republicanism lacks the strategic capacity to impose its terms on the British state, it requires that this gerrymander be eclipsed.

Given that republicanism, in its traditional sense, has been effectively contained and given also that unionism remains, effectively, a monolith towards sustaining the Union, this necessitates the outnumbering of the unionist cohort internal to the contrived gerrymander if there is to be a United Ireland any time soon. We might not like that it is so and argue against this in principle but the fact remains that this is where things are at.

To that extent, the so-called slippage towards 'orange and green' should present issue only to those who seek that the normalisation / 'Project Northern Ireland' agenda become further embedded. While far from progressive, this is the course reality of a sectarian gerrymander – a lá the northern statelet – when it faces off against an internal minority on the rise within its boundary, a minority for whom the gerrymander exists to deny their rightful place within a United Ireland in the first instance.

To this extent the sectarianism bemoaned of today, which straddles northern politics in a more obvious, indeed overt, fashion than seen in decades, can only be accounted for once the gerrymander sustaining it is no more – and with it the Union which gives rise to the same. It is only when that Union has been ended that the divisions between the Irish people can begin to heal.

That further polarisation along the orange and green axis is the likely direction of travel in the interim is the unavoidable consequence of British policy – not the doing of Irish nationalism. It is not, then, related to nationalist voting behaviour and changes to nationalist voting behaviour reflect that reality, rather than any slippage towards sectarian considerations. When an occupying force insists that a contrived majority be surmounted in a sectarian numbers game before entertaining our national rights, it can be no other way.

While recent election results reflect a growing nationalist demography in the Six Counties and have brought into focus the prospect of a United Ireland, we should not get carried away. We must, as republicans, ensure to the best of our combined abilities that a United Ireland – should one come to pass – is a sovereign Ireland and not a halfway house arrangement, as is now being advanced by some in the constitutional fold.

While awaiting a nationalist majority is in no way a revolutionary strategy it does not, though, necessitate that should one be realised that a revolutionary outcome should not proceed. For ourselves as Irish republicans that outcome must be a democratic all-Ireland republic – a 'New Republic' for all. The rising nationalist vote in the north suggests this could be closer to hand than until now has been estimated. Republicans must respond accordingly. It's either that or we wither and die.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

13 comments to ''Sectarian Dynamic In Northern Politics The Consequence Of British Policy"

  1. Well now that we have direct rule in reverse and the British on the so-called "mainland" will now be ruled directly by the DUP from the 6 counties - perhaps after a few months of experiencing the full force of these highly evolved and progressive intellectuals it might just persuade some in Britain to start thinking that perhaps holding on to "Northern Ireland" is not in their best interests!

    It almost (and I say only almost) makes me feel sorry for the Tories - no scratch that, I don;'t feel sorry for them at all..

  2. Republican republican republican.... Sorry but the word is meaningless. Give me Jeremy Corbyn 'for the many not the few' over that. Are we saying we don't want a monarch? Fine. What else is 'republican' saying?? Republicanism here was a sop to planter calvinists like the DUP. It was a manifesto of we will rebel but our fight is not really with you. Who the fuck else was it with? Pure joke. I agree with the thrust of the article 100% and am glad to see the dawning of reality within it. Sectarian headcount is the only game in town. It is the end game and the electorate knows it. Republicanism means Provos to me, it means paedo idols and armchair Scaps sending people out to kill or jail only to be shot as touts, by touts, when they no longer serve a purpose. Keep 'republicanism', it's a dirty word.

    The BBC map at the head of this article caught my attention also yesterday. Looking at the portion of unionist votes and geographic location it is incredible that this slither of territory and the 'not Irish but British' inhabitants are permitted to divide this nation. Not only that but those facilitating it are destroying nations globally while lecturing the world on democracy and freedom. Don't know whether to laugh or scream. Looking at Corbyn and the Best of British in action was a joy to behold. The UK are now going to see via the DUP what their notion of the Best of British in Ireland has meant for the rest of us for centuries. HOPEFULLY.

    I totally agree with jgr33n, the reliance of May on Foster and the DUP, the ugly sisters pantomime and Christmas still six months off, is a potential eye opener for the GB public. People I know from England are actually only now for the first time checking the DUP out. Only now are they sending me links on the Ulster Resistance and loyalist connections and the cash for ash scandal in shock. If the DUP are good enough for us to have endured and suffered, good enough for them 'over the re' too, right? Hardly! We will shortly find that like Orange marches in the UK during the 19th century, they were not tolerated for very long on the 'mainland'. It will be interesting to see this scenario play out. Don't take your eye off it, it will be short and swift I expect. Paddy Ashdown was dismayed on TV at the prospect and made a quite revealing comment. He said there is an unwritten rule in Biritsh politics, 'never leave the country in the hands of an Ulsterman.' I expect the 1922 Committee are already organising the celebration party for Teresa May, the one where she opens the door to the function room and sees it's empty...BANG!! May has brought us back to the 1912 Orange Card scenario only I think everyone has moved on so much in modern times. Tory expediance and evil alligned with Loyalist self interest and a fascist sectarian game plan for profit cost the Empire 26 counties here. Ireland was lost to the Union, Empire and Commonwealth and for what? Good to see they have learned nothing since. The loss of six more counties coming right up. Self inflicted.

    BTW considering Belfast now has an RC majority how did the huns get 3 of the 4 seats? The SDLP deserved a wipeout. Nationalists need to get that shit sorted next time out. Great to see the future's bright in Fermanagh again.... the future's bright it's GREEN AND WHITE!! no orange.

  3. Sean,

    thanks for putting this piece the way of TPQ and with so little time to get it prepared. It is not as if you like the way things are but are merely observing the way they are or at least the way you see them. People need to engage with that rather than accuse you of being a defeatist, anti-republican or promoter of heresy.


    unfortunately, a sectarian headcount is the way it is going. Sean makes that pretty clear. But I would advise against embracing or extolling it even if it constitutes the facts on the ground. I am so switched off by it all when it is reduced to that. I don't like Northern nationalists enough to want to be part of that. Neither do I dislike Northern unionists enough to want to be part of it.

    Nor would I wish the dog tag of Northern Catholic to be hung around my neck. I prefer European even to Irish. Doesn't make me much of a nationalist does it?!! So when the republicans back Brexit I find myself recoiling.

    But here is a thought - would we rather live under a British government led by Corbyn or an Irish one led by Varadker? My heretical answer is Corbyn and I suspect you are probably the same.

  4. Mackers

    I agree with Lee Clegg's election speech where unionism/loyalists are concerned, if you live by the sword (sectarianism) you die by the sword. As far as I am concerned the swifter the sword is produced and applied the better. I have zero empathy for them politically.

    As for Corbyn, he is the Best of British to my mind and I would be delighted to live under a government of his anywhere on these islands. The DUP and unionism in general have unfortunately been what Irish youth identify with British until they visit GB and learn different. They are a disgrace to everything virtuous about the British working class charachter, hence their evil reaction to civil rights demands.

    FG are Tory west Brits. Englishmen at heart. I don't care for them any more than I do for the Tory Party. Same DNA and not just politically.

  5. Larry,

    Nick, not Lee!!

    I don't share your passionate disdain for the unionists.

    I don't like unionism: never have, unlikely that I ever will.

    But we had far too many bad yolks on our side to think the unionists had them all.

    Like you, I never once tuned into the Northern election - the only thing I remember from it was John Finucane's intervention. And that was just Adams putting Kelly out to graze.

  6. Mackers

    Yes Nick Clegg. What happened to Finucane did he get elected?
    As for unionism, my stance is akin to Fermanagh, happy to get along splendidly personally. Come elections, that is different. I would vote on a headcount basis every time. But I'm in Donegal so it matters not.

  7. Sean Bres

    I see the DUP are already tightening the noose around May's neck by contradicting her that a deal has been reached. There's 'loyalty' for you, WATP are back with a wee vengeance, vengeance being the word. The DUP will be wanting the parades commission scrapped so the Orange Order can tramp all over RC villages and housing estates, they'll demand the butchers apron be flown on all council and government buildings 365 days a year so RCs know what 'country' they are in. They will want huge wads of cash for their loyalty is to the crown, the half crown. They will want Peter's old job back top $$ for driving around with his natural born leader in army surplus kit. Shoot to kill for terrorists ALL RCs are terrorists and an end to legal enquiries into security force murders.

    Thats a great wee map at the head of this article. That red area, 'planterville' I think Barney Rubble could be Lord Mayor in ALL of it after this years marching season by about Christmas, no election required. Come home from a long days marching waving the fleg through RC villages to find yer and all yer neighbours houses are a pile of rubble... Well done Teresa May.

    I really think the Tory top brass had better get a hold of this farce pronto.

  8. AM, I very much enjoyed Tommy McKearney's piece 'Early in the Morning' and your own 'Supping With the Devil Haters'.

    However, phrase of the week goes to "But we had far too many bad yolks on our side to think the unionists had them all."

    That's what Republicanism has to mitigate against. Nothing wrong with keeping Republicanism alive in unpopular times. In fact, that's what O'Bradaigh et al did in the 50s. There are always splits. They mightn't quite be the first thing on the agenda like Behan said but they are inevitable. Understanding this and keeping them peaceful is the essential lesson. There are always two steps forward and one back.

    As for bad eggs, a watchful eye and a strict hold of membership of whatever brand of Republicanism is vital. Why? Because if you allow selfish criminals, sectarian thinkers, corruption and drug dealers into your midst you are criminalising yourself and everything you stand for. The criminal tag is retroactive too, damning past generations. Whether you are Sinn Fein, IRSP or 1916 Societies, or whatever you'll always get bad eggs but limiting the number is doable and a priority. Limiting the bad eggs should be a priority as they'll stop progress and even if you do make advancements they'll flush it down the toilet.

    It's difficult to avoid the sexual offender type in any organisation but you have to keep a watchful eye and deal with any situations with justice and understanding. The way some were dealt with in the past is a lesson in what not to do.

    It's difficult to avoid the Stakeknife type also. So hats off to any genuine Republican these days. You're gambling your liberty or reputation or life. That's something that takes a strong constitution.

    Avoiding all other bad eggs will at least mitigate this and allow you to sleep a little more soundly in your bed.

    As for sectarian headcounts it has always been that way since Partition was first thought up. The only way to a peaceful United Ireland is through a non-sectarian popular movement. I know getting people from the Protestant faith to support Irish unity is more difficult than getting a Catholic to be pro-United Kingdom but theoretically it's possible. Corbyn and the Saor Alba movement have shown how mass movements can rise up. It's probably the best hope and violence is a major turn-off for most.

  9. Stevie Wonder could have predicted this would happen. The DUP knew they had maneuvered into the fray in such a way to make the NI Assembly redundant save for picking up healthy paycheques. They still hold all the cards. Not much changes really.

  10. Steve R

    After the initial sense of a Tory Judas stunt in the offing it has settled down to who the hell cares... No assembly since January, not even missed, does that not tell us all

  11. Larry,

    It's always been direct rule with the Assembly as mere window dressing, now we have the mentally unhinged (McCausland, Poots et al)as the main directors of that rule.

    Sweep up the Ash with lots more Cash Arlene!

  12. Steve R

    It scares me a little how quickly tempers/ire including my own can still be ignited, even if only briefly. To think that scum like Adams and Co. who never did a day or took a risk played on that is comical almost. Pittyful more like. SF are in government and bent over daily for an entire decade to take it from Arlene right to the hilt without as much as a squeek out of them. The only thing 'eating' SF is the fact it is not THEM in power... in Dublin. SF were over at Westminster, did you not see them being interviewed on the Parliament lawn?

    Good for the DUP I say, just don't go tramping on people. Keep it real Arlene. AMEN. lol

  13. Larry,

    I saw John Snow huddling with the lot of them like it was Parkhead! I agree with you, t'is only a matter of when " to properly represent our people in Westminster" they take the oath.

    I predict the words "Reality", "Political Mandate", a "True Irish Voice representing not just the Irish people in the 6 counties, but Irish interests in major UK cities particularly Liverpool and Manchester" to be bandied about in a Green Shinner ticker-tape cavalcade of Volte Face!

    As for the DuhUP, I am not the only Prod who is embarrassed that these are actually the people chosen to represent NI. Feebs, morons, bigots and hypocrites.

    Perfect match for the Tories really. Wonder if there is such a thing as Tinder for Political Parties?

    Corban and the Shinners would be a lovely couple!! lol


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