British State Sets Toward Managing Irish Unity Narrative

Sean Bresnahan writing in An Claidheamh  Soluis cautions against inflated optimism in response to calls for a border poll. 

On last week’s Sunday Politics, Peter Osborne of the Community Relations Council twice described the North as being ‘less than halfway through a fifty year plus peace process’, the second time around arguing we were still only ‘twenty years into a fifty year plus peace strategy’.

The introduction of this theme at this time is no accident, for here we see the British state, through the subtle employ of NGOs, attempting to manage political ‘outworkings’ should the unionist majority in the Six Counties be lost, this by introducing that Irish Unity has long and only ever been understood as a possibility fifty years forward from ‘Good Friday’ minimum — if at all.

Alongside the emerging notion of an agreed new Ireland — a notion advanced by various shades of the constitutional establishment, from Fine Gael through New Sinn Féin — it is apparent where this narrative is set toward. Like the ‘agreed Ireland’ construct of Varadkar and co, it is not towards full Irish Unity.

Instead, we see a renegotiation of Good Friday here mooted — leading onto further compromise with the British state post-a nationalist majority in the North, under the requirements of this supposed peace process. This negotiation is intended to mount a forward bulwark between Britain’s claims to Ireland and an independent 32-county Irish Republic.

Those set on a border poll as the road to Irish Freedom, who argue the merit of mechanisms established under the Good Friday Agreement attendant to Irish Unity — that dictate how it will be arrived upon, by whom and in what form — might do well to take on board the implications.

Sean Bresnahan, Chair, Thomas Ashe Society Omagh blogs at An Claidheamh Soluis

Follow Sean Bresnahan on Twitter @bres79

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Anthony McIntyre

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

11 comments to ''British State Sets Toward Managing Irish Unity Narrative"

  1. Larry Hughes says

    It seems the analysis of a 50+ year peace process is not a British one alone. We have Varadkar saying a sizeable RC majority in the 6 counties would be required for Irish Unity to become viable and Tommy McKearney talking in terms of 30 years from now. This all seems to me a perception among political thinkers that in order to avoid a re-run of sectarian Irish/British antagonisms in Ireland with Dublin the recipient Government, it is best to await the demographic demise of the Loyalist pro British population in the north. The vulture on the clothes line scenario or the Komodo Dragon following a bitten pray around until it finally keels over. All the while taking expences engaging in fraudulent criminal financial escapades in office and not even turning up for work for two years at a time. YES we get the politicians we deserve.

  2. I think Sean has been one foe the few to think forward in relation to this. The problem is that while Sean sees the problem from a republican perspective it he does not always acknowledge the limitations of republicanism to challenge it. At one point we could all buy into the notion that Northern Ireland was a failed political entity. It seems Northern Ireland as they call it has survived to the point where it can now even hollow out the consent principle. The failed political entity is republicanism. I still don't think many republicans who voted for it, get what the GFA did to finish off republicanism.

    Useful piece Sean. Thanks as always for allowing it to be run here.

    Larry - great phrase about strategy being reduced to the demographic demise of unionism.

  3. Anthony, I agree that Irish Republicanism has so far always been a failed entity.

    More of an aspiration than a reality.

    Whereas British colonialism in the North (GFA, UK, etc.) …

    And neo-colonialism in the South (Varadkar, EU, etc.) …

    Have been quite successful in pushing their own political and economic agendas.

    Give these devils their due because their exorcism will never be easy.

  4. Eoghan - the balance of forces just aren't there. The longer partition existed the harder it was going to find a republican means to remove it. The GFA consolidated it like nothing else and in a sense guaranteed it life after death.


    In the course of the conversation I asked (Warren Nutter, Assistant US Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs) how Washington got so many other governments to do its bidding.

    He answered, “Money.”

    I asked, “You mean foreign aid?”

    He said, “No, bags of money. We buy the leaders.”

    --- Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant US Secretary of Treasury.

  6. Eoghan - I think manipulation of appetites only goes so far. There are ideologies and discourses at play plus deep rooted structural factors. There is a great debate from the late 1960s early 1970s between the Marxists Ralph Miliband and Nicos Poulantzas which mirrors this sort of dichotomy. I always found it interesting.

  7. Anthony, only so far or far enough?

    I am not familiar with this Marxist debate you refer to but I am familiar with Occam's razor which is “… a logical principle attributed to the medieval philosopher William of Occam (or Ockham). The principle states that one should not make more assumptions than the minimum needed. This principle is often called the principle of parsimony. It underlies all scientific modelling and theory building.”

    “Still (British Prime Minister Ted) Heath wanted more. After Bloody Sunday in 1972, he demanded that more experienced propagandists be drafted in to discredit the IRA further. He even advocated using bribery to influence people.”

    “The original deal,” he wrote in the Telegraph, “represented a bribe to two sets of hardliners who, having opposed power-sharing, came to support it when they realised that they would be the direct beneficiaries.” – Daniel Hannan, Conservative MP

    "We got absolutely nothing," Marion (Price) said. "We were betrayed.",8599,1726385,00.html

  8. Eoghan - have long been a believer in Occam's razor and for that reason avoid conspiracy theories. Occam dealt in evidence and on the basis of that made his recommendation to go for the simplest explanation possible.

  9. Eoghan, Occam's razor took me back to jail - not sure that it s good or a bad thing! The recently resigned bishop John MacAreavey was a professor of canon law and used to engage with us about philosophy and theology. I had just finished reading Copleston's six volume history of philosophy and one of the first questions he threw at me was Occam's razor! So, there you go - I thought then he was testing me for the hell of it to see if I really had read the books. the little things that take us back in time.

  10. Anthony, you’re right, it’s the little things that take us back in time.

    But it would take me double the prison sentence you got to read all that.

    But this seems like the simplest explanation possible:

    “Belfast was rotten.” – Brendan Hughes

    “Mr Hughes says that on leaving prison in 1986 he found the IRA in disarray. It was full of informers and was being ‘purposely run down’, he says. ‘Belfast was rotten. I sat and talked to Gerry. He said I was paranoid, it wasn’t that bad, I was exaggarating,’ Mr Hughes says.”

    Interview with Brendan Hughes saying same:

    So, who are we to all believe: Brendan Hughes or Gerry Adams?

    That said I only avoid conspiracy theories when there’s no evidence for them.

    As you know prisons are filled with criminal conspirators albeit mostly poor blue-collar ones.

    That is conspiracy to sell drugs, to rob banks, to steal cars, to gang rape, etc.

    Ever notice that few people have a problem believing in those kinds of conspiracies?

    What’s mostly missing from prisons are rich white-collar criminal conspirators.

    But that’s not because they have not committed criminal conspiracies.

    Ever notice though that many people have a problem believing in those kinds of conspiracies?

    Yet the proof is overwhelming!

    Many governments and businesses engage in all kinds of criminal conspiracies.

    Conspiracy by US government to pogrom and slaughter Native Americans.

    Conspiracy by American businessmen to overthrow the Hawaiian government 1893-95.

    Conspiracy by President Nixon’s administration to secretly bomb and invade Cambodia.

    Conspiracy by President Reagan’s administration to run Iranian guns to Nicaraguan Contras.

    Conspiracy by W.R. Grace Company to poison the drinking-water wells in Woburn, Massachusetts.

    Conspiracy by MI-6 and CIA to overthrow the Iranian government (1953).

    Conspiracy by United Fruit Company & CIA to overthrow the Guatemalan government (1954).

    Conspiracy by US government to invade Vietnam as per fraudulent Ton Kon Gulf Resolution.

    Conspiracy by Nixon, Kissinger, CIA and ITT to overthrow the Chilean government (1973).

    Conspiracy by Richard Nixon to burglarize Watergate Hotel and Daniel Ellsberg’s Psychiatrist office.

    Conspiracy by Tony Blair and George Bush to overthrow Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Conspiracy by Hillary Clinton & Barack Obama to overthrow the Honduran government.

    Conspiracy by President Trump’s administration to overthrow Syria, Iran and Venezuela.

    Conspiracies by Wall Street and Irish Banks and their governments to rip off investors & taxpayers.

    And so on, and so forth.

    Of course, very few of those proven criminal conspirators ever served a day in jail or prison.

    In fact, the CIA/FBI or MI5/MI6 are nothing but institutional criminal conspiracies.

    Just reference for starters “Force Research Unit”

    Or “Phoenix Program”


    Or “Tuskegee syphilis experiments (1932-1972)”

    So, given this known proven history and human nature good and bad…

    Money talks and cui bono are the simplest explanations possible.

    And they are perfectly in keeping with colonial co-option and satrap setups.

    If you know simpler explanations that don’t require me to read 6 volumes of philosophy…

    Then I am all ears.

  11. Eoghan,

    thanks for that.


    there is a piece last night lifted from Slugger which you might find worth a read given its subject matter being the border poll. It also touches on some of the themes you were developing immediately post-Brexit particularly in relation to a shift within northern nationalism.


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