Myth Either Fires Or Fails

Anthony McIntyre's piece from last week's Belfast Telegraph argues that for the myth of a United Ireland to continue to have purchase the Stormont Assembly needs to be up and running. 

Irish unity needs the Northern Ireland Assembly to be firing on all cylinders

Currently, in the North, the British Secretary of State James Brokenshire and Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney are scurrying around, seemingly oblivious to the “busy fool” concept. James as he views his broken shire is said to be feverishly working behind the scenes in a bid to pull it all back together again by having the main protagonists meet in secret.

More upfront, Simon Coveney has taken to gallivanting from one part of the Bantustan to another, meeting him, her and Uncle Tom Cobley. By now he must understand that the term Minister for Foreign Affairs is most apt when he visits a place like the North, where he is certain to be confronted with its mish mash of alien ideas, archaic attitudes and an insufferable political narcissism which helps comfortably blinker out of view what the chief executive of Co-operation Ireland, Peter Sheridan, referred to as “the rights of the other community.”

If both ministers express optimism, even if only for the optics, about a rapid resumption of the Executive, they remind us of another concept they have forgotten: that in the North no pessimist was ever proved wrong. While each behaves like the character from a Seán Ó'Faoláin's short story "who hadn't got a spare sixpence of an idea to fumble for”, the North’s political class continues doing what has long defined it – procrastination.

It is hugely enamoured to the notion of delay and defer, which was ingrained in their collective psyche by Tony Blair, who visited the place around forty times, almost certainly more than he travelled to Iraq, where he both started and waged an unjust war. The lesson learned by the political class was that if it throws the rattle out of the pram and howls enough it will attract attention and copious quantities of pacifiers. Having established a pattern of penultimate deadline by endless postponement, the two governments should at least desist from expressing displeasure at the monkey when it reaches out for low hanging fruit.

The DUP, as usual, has taken to blaming Sinn Fein for the administrative hiatus. The nationalist party, stands accused by Sammy Wilson of having “demands and red lines ... so unrealistic that there is not going to be an agreement.”

While it might come as no surprise to learn that Roy Beggs of the UUP backed Wilson, an eyebrow or two might be raised in the direction of the SDLP’s Claire Hanna who earlier this week tweeted that “Danny Morrison today gives SF thinking in a nutshell - killing Good Friday & handing us all to Tories is worth it to make point to the DUP.”

So, in a nutshell of a different sort, it is all Sinn Fein’s fault: the party prefers direct rule to a power sharing executive; its eye, more on power in the South than progress in the North.

How representative Morrison is of what Sinn Fein believes prior to the commission of the party’s approved thinking is not as readily apparent as Hanna might hypothesize. He has often been behind the curve on these matters. He is not a policy maker but someone who often wrongly anticipates what way the cat might jump and leaps first, only to find the cream has soured. Hence his serious errors of judgement about IRA weaponry decommissioning and the party response to visits from British royalty. Morrison is much more adept at falling into line with party policy than he is at predicting it, as is evidenced from his reading of the party’s relationship with the DUP at the “moment of creation”. Writing prior to the DUP-Sinn Fein coalition in 2007 he opined that:
Increasingly I think we must need our heads examined. Just because he represents the largest party might entitle him to be First Minister – but, in truth, who could work with this one-man Executive? He is ill-mannered, arrogant, pompous and bigoted. We want the North to change, to modernise, and not to be stuck in the sixteenth century having the Protestant Reformation shoved down our throats. What an advertisement he would be around the world. We would be a laughing stock. We would be building on gas.

In short, Morrison is not a reliable barometer of Sinn Fein policy. 

Party luminary Jim Gibney waxes somewhat more sanguine than Morrison. He is also more in tune with what is being thought within the party, even if he inherits ideas rather than patents them. His view is that “it is difficult to say if the north's executive, assembly and all-Ireland ministerial council will function again in the foreseeable future.” He has floated the fanciful notion that if observers look past the DUP “there is clearly some new and fresh thinking taking place among a section of unionist opinion.”

This is a regurgitation of the old Sinn Fein shibboleth, supported by strategic nothingness, of identifying a unionist de Clerk. It is not born not of acuity but of aridity. Courtesy of Tory misfortunes the DUP is in the ascendancy and there is nothing for Sinn Fein to look past other than the wilderness of direct rule, which the vastly experienced Ken Bloomfield suggests is the most likely option should the shouting fail to reach a mutually agreed conclusion.

Better for Sinn Fein as suggested by Morrison? Hardly. It only makes political, strategic and indeed historic sense for Sinn Fein to “smash Stormont” if in its stead there was to be a move towards more rule from Dublin and less from London, even with latter remaining the dominant partner: an incremental rolling transfer of sovereignty where power shifts incrementally from London to Dublin. There is not the slightest sign of this happening.

Because Sinn Fein is so heavily focussed on the South - it has little strategic choice - it does not follow that the Northern institutions can simply be permanently upended. For if the party is to succeed in its pretence that a united Ireland of sorts - just not the one “traditionally envisaged" to cite Adams - can be put in place, it requires the apparatus in the North to be firing on all cylinders. Sans executive resumption at some point prior to the next Southern general election, Sinn Fein, with its ceiling of ambition limited to propping up Fianna Fail or Fine Gael, merely becomes a strain of the Labour Party. The latter’s death by deception will serve as a salutary warning to Sinn Fein.

While Morrison’s observation that the Sinn Fein the base has shifted seems accurate, there has been no party leadership in the island more capable of getting the base to slaughter sacred cows, than the current camarilla and cabal heading Sinn Fein. If there is no groundswell against the politically promiscuous search in Dublin for any suitor no matter how conservative, it is difficult to image the base continuing to hold the line against a resumption of the Executive, no matter how weak the terms, at a point when it is most conducive to leadership ambitions.

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Anthony McIntyre

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

4 comments to ''Myth Either Fires Or Fails"

  1. It just seems to me that Sinn Fein are using the old fighting style of the war of Independence and the conflict. Instead of using the tactic of the official IRA campaign of making Ireland ungovernable with the bomb and bullet and again throughout the troubles in the North with the provisional's, They seem to be taking the Fabian approach of dismantling the system from within. This tactic you could say hasn't worked in the last twenty years since the birth of the GFA. It just seems, to put it in layman terms, fucked up. it may serve the Shinners well to simply stop their hypocrisy of being a republican party and accept ''northern Ireland'', take their seats in Westminster and possibly soak up some SDLP votes and I don't feel they will lose many existing voters as party loyalty runs deep with Sinn Fein.

    As far as your piece goes I found it very confusing due to my lack of vocabulary expertise. Perhaps in time, continued writing will expand my ''wordsmithary'' and not take as long as I will proudly deny the length it took me.


  2. A nice run of Telegraph features AM, in terms of content, as ive said before, I dont know where you get the patience from to follow it.


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