Historic Handshake has Fired the Starting Gun

Guest Writer ex-Blanket columnist and Radical Unionist commentator Dr John Coulter maintains the historic handshake has fired the starting gun on a new Irish peace process which will see a peaceful Home Rule for the entire island.

Old republicanism is dead, long live new nationalism! That’s the clear message Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness’s handshake with Queen Elizabeth has sent across Ireland.

This change will not come about this morning magically as if McGuinness was the political version of the youthful wizard Harry Potter. Rather than the Provisionals’ long-war strategy, this will be a long-term tactic of symbolism eventually leading to a new relationship with Britain.

Just as the Good Friday Agreement peace process began in 1998 and effectively concluded with the queen laying a wreath at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance, the latest historic handshake will start the ball rolling on a new phase of the peace process – one which will see the South form a closer link with Britain through the much-favoured Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

But Irish politics is cluttered with the art of the impossible. The so-called Chuckle Brothers routine between DUP firebrand Ian Paisley senior and McGuinness has been one of the most successful and stable political coalitions Ireland has ever seen.

But just over three decades ago as around 100,000 nationalists bade farewell to the dead IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands MP, if you had said then that one day Sinn Fein would sit at a partitionist parliament at Stormont with the supposedly hardline DUP, you would have been told to seek serious psychiatric help. But it happened.

Ironically, the new peace process which McGuinness and the queen have set in motion is almost a carbon copy of the Home Rule crisis which plunged the island into generations of conflict a century ago.

This new phase of Anglo-Irish relations will signal greater all-island co-operation between the Dail and Stormont. Given the Republic’s dire financial situation with the euro bail-out, the South will seek a closer link with Britain, with initial membership of the CPA a first step.

When Ireland was entirely in the Union, it was a founder member of the original Empire Parliamentary Association in the early 20th century. The modern CPA boasts a membership of more than 50 national and regional parliaments, some of whom were never members of the original British Empire.

The historic handshake is preparing Sinn Fein for the new to return to the roots of its founder Arthur Griffith, who was a major fan of the dual monarchy system in 1905 – two separate nations, one monarch.

McGuinness must also re-position Sinn Fein to take advantage of the forthcoming independence vote in Scotland. Even if First Minister Alex Salmond’s Scottish National Party loses the poll, he can expect to gain increased devolved powers for the Scottish Parliament, dubbed ‘devo-max’.

The handshake will also see Sinn Fein phasing out the influence of the IRA prisoners and membership’s influence within the republican movement, as a new generation of so-called ‘draft dodgers’ slowly grips the party.

The ‘draft dodgers’ is a rather cheeky term for those young – and old - political republicans who now have a major influence or position within Sinn Fein, but have never been members of the Provisional IRA. Or if they have been members of the IRA, they have kept it a closely guarded secret!

But the bitter medicine McGuinness must prepare Sinn Fein to swallow is not a deal with Unionists over Home Rule, but tough security measures to deal with the republican dissidents.

Abusive and emotive terms such as ‘Judas’ (a reference to one of Jesus Christ’s disciples, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed our Lord for 30 piece of silver) and ‘traitor’ are being kicked around like political footballs as the rival mainstream and dissident factions of the broad republican family exchange insults.

Historic comparisons are already being drawn between the present activities of the McGuinness/Gerry Adams camp in Sinn Fein and the dissident republican movement, and the events which happened in Ireland in the 1920s following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the equally bloody Irish Civil War. 

Politically, the dissident republican movement will never dent Sinn Fein, even in its traditional heartlands. But just as Eamon de Valera had to crack down on the IRA after the Irish Civil War in the 1920s, McGuinness may have to oversee a no-nonsense PSNI and Southern security forces campaign to eradicate groups such as the Real IRA and RAAD (Republican Action Against Drugs).

McGuinness and Adams must rebrand Sinn Fein as an Irish version of Salmond’s exceptionally popular and successful SNP. It’s not a case of Sinn Fein using the handshake symbolism to move into the centre ground as Peter Robinson’s DUP has done in the North.

If Sinn Fein is to ‘milk’ the long-term publicity from the handshake, it must firmly entrench itself as the saviours of the financially battered Southern middle classes.

In the North, Adams and McGuinness were highly successful in electorally raiding the rich Catholic middle classes which were once the bastions of the now rapidly fading SDLP. It is now the middle ground which holds the rich pickings for Sinn Fein; it is the middle classes.

In the North, too, Sinn Fein achieved this without offending substantial sections of its core vote – the working class Catholic republican heartlands. Yes, there will always be a section of the republican family which will take the fantasy approach – kill as many Brits as possible and then talk to whoever is left! That did not work for the Provos, Stickies or INLA, and it won’t work for dissidents.  

Just new nationalism must take account of a British and Unionist dimension, so too must Unionism take account of an all-island framework. In the coming years, nationalism and Unionism’s spin doctors will have their work cut out for them – and not just in Scotland.

The queen will also be diplomatically sending a message to Unionists. If she can shake hands with a former IRA commander, the Protestant Loyal Orders can meet nationalist residents groups to solve the contentious parades dilemma.

Could a republican grandfather and an octogenarian monarch have finally solved the Drumcree dispute in Portadown with a mere handshake?


  1. What could John Coulter possibly have a PhD in? Apart from bollocksology, of course.

  2. Had to read that-

    Wonder if Doctor john was a draft Dodger himself-he never went against Sinn Fein during the war but loves to throw accusations now
    during peace-
    The x R.U.C, and x U.D.R- call him DR Whom-

  3. Alfie,
    When I first read John Coulters' piece,I thought he'd been watching too many Harry Potter films.On further reflection however,I must disagree with you,in that,-in the 'Alice in Wonderland'makebelieve fairytale world of PSF,anything is possible.John forgot to mention,-seats at Westminster,lunch at Windsor and a knighthood for Martyboy.
    Always remember,'If you come across a lunatic,jabbering woefully- don't pass him by.-You might just learn something.'

  4. I have only one hope, and, that is for the 12th of July. I hope America send over its Killer Heatwave on the 12th Morning, and, that it remains throughout the day as we watch the Red faced whiskey drinking LOL stumble paste The Ardoyne shops AT 16-00 HRS Sweating there Balls Off.
    Im afraid Mr Coulter is in dream land with his predictions, once a bigot always a bigot, Bigotry has to stop, Queer Billy is long gone as is James, and this is not 1668/69. what PSF have done is for there own satisfaction not for all those foot soldiers who are still here today and not for all those foot soldiers who paid the ultimate price. Time will tell.

  5. I'm as baffled as Alfie. I'm not sure what his articles are an insight into.

  6. John Coulter is anything but a bigot. This whole article outlines the way he sees SF continuing to derepublicanise its entire project which is more important really than the predictions he might make.

  7. I agree that John isn't a bigot Mackers but I also don't enjoy his articles.

    John also suffers from a credibility problem as far as I'm concerned given his creationist views.

    To give a pehaps OTT analogy; David Icke may write a decent article about the derepublicanisation of PSF with a prediction of lizard domination at the tail end. I'd find it hard to find a reason to cherry pick his article.

  8. We just don't publish what we enjoy Tomas, nor restrict our reading to what we enjoy. Some of the most thought provoking pieces are the ones we don't enjoy. Creationism is for the fairies. I never enjoyed Intelligent Design but I waded through quite a bit of it to better understand it. It is bonkers too

  9. John seems fixated with the outworkings of the complete destruction of prm and not a single mention of the uvf or uda (they havent gone away you know).John a cara qsf will of course in time take their seats in Westminster,maybe sooner than we think,you know they may say its a cunning ploy to help Scotland throw of the Sassanach shackles which in turn will help re-unite Ireland, whatever road they are now on one thing is for sure and that is this road is a one way street and quite possibly a cul-de-sac,the truth be told John those in qsf lost the right to call themselves republican when they allowed six men to die needlessly for their own selfish ends,but to put a more simple view point on where qsf is heading a cara ..that is where their masters in Whitehall tell them to head..as for the old guard being dumped by the ambitious carpetbaggers with no previous well thats already a work in progress.qsf may last a while longer than those who went before but like the sticks personal ambition and greed will dismantle the bearded ones project..

  10. Republican should of taken the UDA offer of an independent NI in 1978.

  11. Anthony.

    If your post about "Bigots" was directed at me, I can assure you I did not Mean John Coulter, I was referring to the Orange Marchers going through Republican Areas, But I agree they way in which i have worded it, it could be read that way. just thought i would clear it up as i have nothing personal against Coulter.


    (they havent gone away you know)

    That is a very true and correct statement.

    The HEAD of The UDA in south Belfast has called for all return parades by Orange men to be stopped, Because they are full of drink (Pissed),he also stated that Parades like those which go through Ardoyne and other Republican areas should be stopped.

  12. Itsjustmacker,

    it did come across that way but no great deal. I took an opposite view from the view you didn't actully hold!

  13. Dear God, I hope he washed that hand thoroughly.

  14. AM,
    Were they ever really republican? They were in name and in propaganda, but it ends there. The volunteers, I have no doubt were republican, but the brass were social climbers.

  15. Bob Doh Brains said to Gerry Itwasntme "doh I must look really sexy in my new BMW convertible...lots of other drivers are letting me know they,re going to have a wank when they get home dohh!"...

  16. Dave,

    ‘Republican should of taken the UDA offer of an independent NI in 1978.’

    Why would the UDA have been in a position to deliver such an offer?

  17. AM.

    Because the UDA "were the UVF", and, I believe that if they had taken that offer, we would all still be in the same boat, Just like today, 2nd class citizens, and, still under the British Monarch, the same ones who armed and trained them and allowed shipments of weapons from south africa to silently come ashore. You have to think how they think, and they still think, They are the Masters and we are second class citizens, ask yourself this question, Why did the Grand Master Of The Orange Lodge speak in the Dail. My answer is, They want to be able to beat their drumbegs in the 26 counties, They are allowed to march in Eire, they have plenty of LOL Lodges there, Their strategy is Take it over, while Adams and McGuinness and Co are sitting blindfolded as to what is actually happening.
    Then again, everyone has their own views on the UDA offer. You need a fish to catch a killer whale!