Brave New North: Neoliberalism in the Six Counties

In a piece that first featured in Irish Anarchist Review No 6 the left wing writer Liam O’Ruairc casts his eye over the neo-liberal project of regeneration in the six counties. He notes that the elite sections of both communities have no problem uniting around what he describes as the “shared non-sectarian identity of the consumer” which reduces shared space to “commercial shared space”. Yet the fact that working class people have seen little of the promised “peace dividend” has not lead to heightened class consciousness so much as it has to increased sectarian division.

Today, the core assumption of the dominant classes in regards to the six counties of ‘Northern Ireland’ is that economic liberalism goes hand in hand with sustainable peace – in other words, neoliberal social and economic policies plus peace process equals prosperity.

With its ‘propaganda of peace’, the media is giving the public an explicit narrative of ‘an end to violence’ and of a ‘political settlement’ having been achieved, as well as an implicit narrative according to which Northern Ireland is at present fit ‘for integration into the consumerist society and the global economic order’. [1]

The image of Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley ringing the trading bell of the Nasdaq in December 2007 symbolises the idea that if the ‘invisible hand’ of the market gets its way, it will provide lasting peace and reconciliation. Economic development agencies from countries like Kosovo and Iraq have even been brought on official visits to the north to witness the success of that idea. Under the ‘new dispensation’, governance structures have been assembled to reconfigure post-conflict economic space.

‘The onset of devolution has promoted a mix between ethno-sectarian resource competition and a constantly expanding neoliberal model of governance.’ All governing parties subscribe to the virtues of free market enterprise, austerity finance, urban regeneration, public-private partnership, private-finance initiatives, and foreign direct investment by global multinationals. Neo liberal principles of privatisation, fiscal conservatism and low social welfare are seen as the main engines of social and economic peace dividend. [2] Peace has in effect been ‘privatised’.

The Mask of Neoliberalism

In opposition to the destructive antagonism be- tween Republicanism and Unionism, the neolib- eral project of governing elites promotes the the ‘shared non-sectarian identity’ of the consumer. It seeks to normalise the north by reducing ‘shared space’ to commercial shared space. Critics point that this idea is fundamentally to ‘provide a mask or a ‘Potemkin Village’ to obscure the poverty and sectarianism hidden behind’. [3] The recently opened Titanic Belfast project is a prime example of such a ‘Potemkin Village’ promoted by this ‘propaganda of peace’. A lecturer in History of Design at the University of Ulster has described the likes of the Titanic Project and the Laganside Development as the city’s largest ‘normalisation project’ and contrasts the ‘propaganda drive to make Belfast appear as normal’ to the fact that at the same time the population has become even more divided and segregated. [4]

This project of ‘rebranding’ the six counties is there to hide the fact that Northern Ireland is a failed economic entity. It is fiscally dependent on the rest of the UK ; its annual deficit stands at £9 billion (€10.6 billion) a year, equivalent to £5,000 a person. Public spending accounts to almost 70 percent of its gross domestic product. Economic output is 20 percent below the British average, 30 percent of the population is economically inactive and it continues to experience the lowest private sector productivity of all UK regions. It is the only part of the UK where weekly wages in the public sector –where over 30 percent of the workforce is employed- are on average £105 higher than the private sector.

Growth rates have consistently trailed behind the UK average. All this puts in doubt whether ‘Northern Ireland’ can become an attractive option never mind a shining example for global capital. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Economic Outlook report published in August 2012, not only is the north’s economy facing ‘very serious problems’ and lagging behind the rest of the UK, but the prognosis is even worse, with predictions for the regional economy to shrink even further. [5] Esmond Birnie, an Ulster Unionist and a senior economist at Pricewater- HouseCoopers admitted last year: ‘Over three decades, the standard of living has remained flat. The reliance on the public sector still remains very high. We've had a high decline in manufacturing...and while there has been growth in the service sector, these are low wage, low productivity jobs - no compensation for the loss of traditional industries. The Northern Ireland economy only grows when there is a massive increase in public spending and another increase in public spending is not realistic.’[6] So much for Northern Ireland PLC!

In a famous analysis published in 1988, Bob Rowthorn and Naomi Wayne described the Northern Ireland economy as a « workhouse economy » : « It would be little exaggeration to describe Northern Ireland in the late 1980s as a workhouse economy. A large part of its population is unemployed. Those who are not are chiefly engaged in servicing or controlling each other –through the provision of health, education, retail distribution, construction, security and social services. Relatively few people within the province are engaged in the production of tradable goods and services which can be sold outside. » [7] Is this analysis still valid today? An analysis published in 2008 (exactly twenty years after Rowthorn and Wayne's book came out) concluded: “Rowthorn and Wayne’s critique of the local economy still has resonance and relevance two decades later. The basic weakness of the economy…has, if anything, been amplified in recent years.” [8]

The Spoils of Peace

There were hopes that the cessation of violence would be followed by a ‘peace dividend’. A detailed study of the evolution of the northern economy in the ten years since following the Belfast Agreement seriously questions the degree to which the peace process has engendered a general and sustainable ‘peace dividend’, especially for the marginalized populations who suffered most during the conflict. [9] Even Ian Coulter, the chairman of the Confederation of British Industry, stated earlier this year that despite the political peace dividend in the last 14 years, there has been no real economic dividend and the north’s economy has not moved on since 1998. [10] Her Majesty’s Treasury provided this assessment in a paper published last year: ‘Peace has not in itself been sufficient to raise Northern Ireland prosperity to the UK average or even to the UK average excluding South East England. Northern Ireland still has one of the weakest economies in the UK.’ [11] And since the start of the great recession ‘the much-heralded prospects of a peace dividend have simply evap- orated following the meltdown of global financial markets. Negative equity, job fears and the cost of living dominate the domestic economic horizon.’ [12]

The working class has seen little improvement of their condition. The Wall Street Journal notes that: ‘In the decade following the official end of ‘the Troubles,’ levels of poverty in both communities has not been reduced. Any peace dividend Northern Ireland received has failed to reach those that most needed to see economic improvement. Indeed, working class communities, which were heavily subsidised by the British state during the Troubles, have actually seen their economic position decline in recent years.’ [13] In a 2011 report, the Northern Ireland Assembly's Research and Library Service studied deprivation and social disadvantage since 1998. It found little evidence of 'peace dividend' and that the gap between the well-off and the disadvantaged ‘persisted and in some cases increased since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement’. Of the 56 wards ranked as the most deprived ten percent in 2001, the researchers found that only 14 areas had climbed out of deprivation by last year. In some cases this had been achieved only because of boundary changes. [14] It is thus hardly surprising that there were recent criticisms of the fact that working class communities have missed out on the dividend from development at Titanic Quarter. [15]

Divide and Re-Conquer

Behind the facade of regeneration, ‘peace’ is at best what has been described as ‘benign apartheid’. Segregation and divisions have significantly increased since 1998. Neoliberal peace has failed to normalise the six counties. Four- teen years after the Belfast Agreement Northern Ireland remains a very divided society. The indicators show that in some areas the divisions have increased: most obviously, the number of interface walls has increased from twenty two at the time the Agreement was signed to forty eight today according to the Department of Justice, or eighty eight according to the last count taken by the Institute of Conflict Research. There is evidence of continuing deep division in housing and education. [16] With its failure to bring peace dividend or develop reconciliation, the ‘re- branding’ of the six counties is a case of ‘putting lipstick on a gorilla.’ [17]

The idea that the free market can generate social and economic prosperity and lasting peace can thus be seriously questioned. The current economic crisis makes things even more difficult. Objective circumstances certainly have weakened the neoliberal project but whether an alternative political project of the subordinated classes will emerge remains very uncertain. The establishment is particularly concerned that the economic crisis provides an opportunity for so- called ‘dissident’ republicans.

The Financial Times for example noted that in the Creggan estate in Derry, six out of ten people are were classed as ‘economically inactive’ and in a sign of the deepening recession over two thousand three hundred people applied for 14 jobs on offer at a new DFS furniture store. The paper concluded that ‘this climate has presented opportunities for hard line groups of dissident Republicans, who oppose the peace process’. [18]

Former Tánaiste and attorney general Michael McDowell predicted earlier this year that the peace process will survive the economic downturn on both sides of the border. Politics in the north could become more divisive in the absence of economic progress, but he said he didn’t believe there was a fundamental risk that it would slip back into conflict. [19] This raises the important question of the political effects of the economic crisis. There is no automatic connection between an economic and a political crisis. There is an economic crisis, but it has not yet reached the stage of an organic crisis – where the very legitimacy of the system itself is questioned. Instead, in the north the crisis has led to calls to lower corporation taxes. There was a substantial one day strike on 30 November 2011 over public sector pensions but it seems to have had little political effects. Such protests remain limited to 'economic-corporate' interests and are unconnected to the question of winning political power and the transformation of the state.

Different Class

While working class people in the six counties are overwhelmingly aware of the material inequalities that mark the social order under which they live, this seems to have little effect upon the political culture of the province. The ideological formations that are prevalent within the six counties would appear to arise not out of class consciousness but rather out of national and sectarian identity. Over two hundred thousand people are members of a trade union, but class politics are absent and the left is largely irrelevant. [20] Many writers in the socialist and labour traditions have pointed to episodes of working-class unity in the past - notably the 1907 and 1919 strikes and the 1932 unemployed workers' movement as the way forward but have failed to analyse the relative weight of class issues and national or sectarian divisions.

Class and 'religion’ have together shaped the structure and consciousness of the modern working class in the north of Ireland A purely class-based focus - or rather one based on a narrow economic definition of class - leads to a misinterpretation of such key events. Working class unity can be fragile if based solely on economic interests, as in 1907, 1919 and 1932.

It is unlikely to crystallise into full unity embracing political and ideological elements, given the irreconcilable differences between the Unionist and Nationalist components. [21] The left and other oppositional forces such as dissenting republicans are also all emerging from a period of defeat and the general climate is one of depoliticisation and demobilisation.’Ours is the age more of the general shrug than the general strike’ as Mick Hume put it. [22]

The key question is whether these are structural tendencies or a conjunctural phenomenon. From a longue durée perspective - an approach which gives priority to long-term historical structures over the histoire événementielle or short term ‘eventual history’ — it would be premature to conclude that the working class movement in the north is dead, it is possibly more accurate to characterise it as being in a process between decomposition and recomposition. Key to that recomposition are international factors. Given the dependence of the six counties on external forces (political and economic) the internal balance of forces is unlikely to change in the north until they begin to change elsewhere in the British Isles and in Western Europe. Until then the left will have to prepare for a long 'war of position' and get ready to battle for political leadership.


[1] Greg McLaughlin and Stephen Baker (2010). The Propaganda of Peace: The Role of Media and Culture in the Northern Ireland Peace Process, Bristol: Intellect, 87ff
[2] Brendan Murtagh and Peter Shirlow (2012). Devolution and the politics of development in Northern Ireland.Environment and Planning C : Government and Policy, 30 :1, 46-61
[3] John Nagle (2009). Potemkin Village : Neo- liberalism and Peace-building in Northern Ire- land ? Ethnopolitics : Formerly Global Review of Ethnopolitics, 8 :2, 187
[4] David Brett. (2004) Geologies of site and settlement, in : Nicholas Allen and Aaron Kelly (eds), The Cities of Belfast, Dublin : Four Courts Press, 25-26
[5] Una Bradley, North's economy facing 'serious problems', The Irish Times, 8 August 2012
[6] Clare Weir, Province no longer ‘a special case’ for cuts, The Belfast Telegraph, 13 January 2011
[7] Bob Rowthorn & Naomi Wayne, Northern Ireland: The Political Economy of Conflict, Oxford: Polity Press, 1988, 98
[8] Jim Smyth & Andreas Cebulla, The Glacier moves ? Economic change and class structure, in Colin Coulter & Michael Murray (eds), Northern Ireland After The Troubles : A Society in Transition, Manchester University Press, 2008, 181
 [9] Denis O’Hearn (2008). How has Peace Changed the Northern Irish Political Economy ? Ethnopolitics : Formerly Global Review of Eth- nopolitics, 7 :1, 101-118
[10] Francess McDonnell, Sectarianism in work- place dampens jubilee cheer, The Irish Times, 22 May 2012
[11] HM Treasury (2011), Rebalancing the North- ern Ireland Economy, London : HM Treasury, 3
[12] Francess McDonnell, Homegrown talent stands high in otherwise difficult year, The Irish Times, 27 December 2011
[13] Neill Lochery, There May Be Trouble Ahead in Northern Ireland, The Wall Street Journal, 14 September 2011
[14] Diana Rusk, Quality of life in north's de- prived areas worsens, The Irish News, 24 March 2011
[15] Lesley-Anne McKeown, Working-class com- munities ‘missed out on Titanic Quarter divi- dend’, The Belfast Telegraph, 3 May 2012
[16] Paul Nolan (2012) Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report (Number One – February 2012), Belfast : Community Relations Council
[17] William J.V. Neill (2006) : Return to Titanic and lost in the maze : The search for represen- tation of ‘post-conflict’ Belfast,Space and Polity, 10 :2, 119
[18] Jamie Smyth, Northern Ireland: A peace to protect, The Financial Times, 14 August 2012
[19] Paul Cullen, Peace process will survive de- spite downturn, says McDowell, The Irish Times, 25 February 2012
[20] Colin Coulter (1999). The absence of class politics in Northern Ireland. Capital and Class, Issue 69, 77-100
[21] Ronald Munck (1985). Class and Religion in Belfast - A Historical Perspective. Journal of Contemporary History, 20:2, 241-259
[22] Mick Hume, British Trade Unions: General Shrug Now!, Spiked Online, June 2011


  1. Liam,
    Totally brilliant piece. There is something that does not fit though with the fiscal policy theory, almost like no such thing as a free lunch. Neo liberalism was and is for many the new colonialism and for those already colonised it added fuel to already plundered fire. Our dependence was manufactured by those we are now allegedly fiscally dependent on. Therefore it is almost ironic that we now depend on those who stole and restructured us to a point that West Belfast is the second most impoverished area in the 'UK' Neo Liberalism will not leave it there. As we have witnessed recently more restructing is on the way.
    Health, benefits, hospitals, schools all facing closure and reductions not of our making. Mc Guinness despite his squeals of I would rather have my wee house in the Bog side than a 5 star hote, is in fact globetrotting to bring more of this type of market to our door step. Free Market means just that, big business comes here and does precisely what it likes how do people like Mc Guinness get them here, by guaranteeing just that!

  2. That's a lot to take in from Liam.

    Firstly, lets take the occupied six counties and were the problems arise.

    No country can survive without exporting Goods.
    When Exports are more than Imports = Economic growth = Work for the working class, both skilled and unskilled.

    When Expenditure is more than Income = Debt, but that is common sense to any waged or unwaged person. If our income is less than our outgoings then we need to adjust our outgoings to try and balance them, or, take out a loan to compensate for the shortfalls,Which would increase our outgoings, which is negative , then we either eat less, heat less, buy less food while those ruling us demand more and more from our meager income so as they can lead a life of luxury. That is called CAPITALISM. And to prove it, We are all asked to either, Take a pay cut, pay more Rent whilst food prices quadruple and those MLA's on the hill have accepted an 11% increase on there salaries.

    MLA's given an 11% Salary Increase

    If we look around the world , communism for one, which was supposed to be equal for everyone!, to me that was, and, still is, a big NO NO, the reason is, no matter who comes to power, no matter what there political stance, the working class will always be 2nd class citizens and the leaders will always have a big House and we, the working class will be paying for it until our dying day, and , the funeral , burial, will also have to be paid for, so, it cost more to die than it doe's to be born.

    Is there an alternative?.

    Lets look at those big ,"Financial Global Rating Agencies" , they are the Billionaires who downgrade or upgrade a countries credit rating , they have downgraded the UK twice since the budget , France and Germany are not far behind the UK either.
    The whole of Europe is in Economic turmoil, someone somewhere is controlling this , WHOM?. Its not America , they are in downturn just like Europe. We have to look further afield to get the answer to that question, THE MIDDLE EAST , Oil Prices dominated by speculators.

    The EU brought in a law that all members should take a stated quota of refugees,or, asylum seekers, each member country were inundated with the quota. That has caused economic disaster in welfare payments. So, the big Question is, WHO IS ACTUALLY running the EU?

    I for one believe it is the International Credit Rating Agencies run by Billionaires in the Middle East, were conflict is rife to this very day, and , I believe its for a Global Dominated Muslim World , being paid for the by the rich Arab Oil States, commonly known as THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD.

    They don't forget THE CRUSADERS.

    My main point is, It does not matter who you vote for, Its to late, the leaders will always sit in a mansion and bleed you to death like a blood sucker.
    A Revolution of the working class? , for what?, the leaders will still be sitting in a mansion bleeding us to death to keep them in their Greedy life stiles.
    Why do I say that, Look no further than our own little British Statelet. Roll on 2016!

  3. Since the hungry thirties this is probably the best opportunity for those on the left to get the message across to all the people here that the church backed capitalism of the state is nothing more than the big boys club,the legalised bank account robbery about to take place in Cyprus makes the MI5 sponsored chucks Northern bank job look like small change.when the working class last united in the ODR riots the government were able to use the old faithful orange card and divide the communities driving them apart and back into the slums, this time the loyalist community have well educated and articulate people who know exactly how selfish and treacherous those who claim to speak for and represent that community really are. the greed of the european bankers and the mess that the banks and their cronies have left the people of Spain Greece and Ireland and Camerons cons attack on the weakest and most vulnerable members of society is a warning that if those on the left cant unite and put a stop to this then we may forget about class politics for a long time to come .

  4. Sometimes it is possible to come across a piece which lays bare the anomalies and contradictions luking beneath the surface. Every student of the political process in the north should read this atricle. It challenges the politically expiedent myths being peddled by the political class that a bright future awaits us. For not only does it through into the question the uncertanity of a prosperous future for all, it exposes the failure of the peace process to deliver the bright new beginning. All of the indicators point to stagnation rather than growth, division rather than reconciliation, failure rather than success. There is something structurally dysfunctional about 'northern Ireland' as a politcal and economic entity. All forms of normal political and economic activity are coloured by the deep divisions created by the conflicting ideologies and allegiences. Class consicousness is corrupted by national and sectarian loyalites except in the most banal circumstances. I have always believed the sectarianism plays a structural role rather than it being the sum total of historical interactions.

    The left in Ireland wil never make progress until it faces up to the the fundamental role that partition plays in our national affairs.

  5. Alec,

    'The left in Ireland wil never make progress until it faces up to the the fundamental role that partition plays in our national affairs.'

    Would replacing the bad economic situation that exists in the UK with an eminently more woeful one that currently grips the Republic be of benefit to the working class?

  6. Great stuff. Very, VERY true.


  7. Robert

    The British state is surviving by printing money. in its recent budget 2 billion of cutbacks in public spending was seen as drastic. British banks (huge parts of which are state owned) are owed between 90-100 billion in debt in the 26-county state. In other words the inevitable implosion both social and economic in the 26 countys in the coming 2-3 years will affect Britain like a nuclear weapon.

    Many Irish Republicans will be aware of this and some may seek to bring this to head as soon as possible.

    Ireland and Britain will be very unpleasant places for us all in the coming years.

  8. Robert

    Whether norn iron is 'floated' by GB the EEC or the man on the moon (i suspect your preference should it come to the vote on partition)the fact remains it couldn't stand on its own two feet for a nano-second. Making out the GB connection as a saving grace is irrelevant to the six counties as it needs assistance from somewhere. So it might as well be in an all-Ireland context within the EEC. The ties between GB and the Free State are so overwhelming economically in any case it's only a camaflaged sectarian argument to retain partition. It only serves to bolster the falacy of Protestant 'supremacy' and what's left of the morale among the neanderthals who require that notion in order to function in life. It's all in the zero-sum game of what passes for politics in wee Ulster. If 'they' are getting something it must be bad news for 'us'. Hence the fleg nonsense stoked up by the DUP and Nesbitt (Rab 'C's well-to-do cousin)in an attempt to pull the rug out from under Naomi Long.

    The demise of the NILP on sectarianised issues like civil rights is happening again. The more things change the more they stay the same. And yet McGuinness and Robinson tour the globe at a whim. Bring on the border poll til we lance the boil and squeeze out the poison that has infected Ireland since it was injected into the country. Sectarianism and that tuppence ha'penny lookin down at tuppence. Bring it on. Maybe we can get some decent politics started and give that Dail 'junta' a good clearing out too.

  9. Robert makes the common mistake of thinking republicans just want to see the occupied-six counties bolted onto the Free State and hey presto all will be right as rain. No my friend, we want to see the full implementation of the principles and values espoused in the 1916 Proclamation. Alongside and with equal importance to national freedom and sovereignty we demand equal rights and equal opportunities, religious and civil liberty, the "right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland" and the promise to "cherish all the children of the nation equally". In short and in the words of the Proclamation we want to deliver on the "happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts".

    For Irish republicans British withdrawal is not the end, it's only the beginning.

    What prevents Ireland from achieving the true independence promised in the Proclamation, economic, political and social, is the unnatural partition of our country and the continuing unwarranted influence - North and South - of those who have ruled this island whether in its entirety or in part for centuries. Until we rid ourselves of their pervasive influence we are condemned to the status quo not only politically but socially, economically and culturally as well.

    Whoever said that the emergence of some form of class consciousness is a pipe-dream, Fionnuala maybe or Marty, is spot on. So long as partition is there it will always be swamped by the national issue. Bet your bottom dollar that this is exactly what the Brits depend on. Divide and conquer is and always has been the oldest, most effective and basic trick in the book. Partition divides the island, sectarianism divides the North and in turn ensures the division of the country; all the while the Brits remain in control.

    So as republicans we don't want to replace the bad economic situation in the UK with an eminently more woeful one in the South - we want to see an entirely new set of relationships that set the state to work for its people rather than the other way round. I'd like to think that such an Ireland can be an example to the rest of the world as to what's possible when an economy and a political system empower and provide for the people instead of enslaving them.

    Wouldn't you?

  10. Robert,
    The Rise and fall of the Celtic Tiger can be credited to neo liberalism. The Free State economy flourished through privatisation and deregulation.
    Neo Liberalism does not benefit the working class how can it, the economy is restructured to suit big business and the financial sector. People may do well on the initial rise but we have seen what happens when it crashes.
    The North of Ireland is as much a victim of post colonialist policies as the rest of the Ireland . Here in the Black North we earn less than the rest of the 'UK' yet our cost of living is way beyond their average. In the sixties some Catholic area were so impoverished there was children that had diseases only found in Third World countries. Now we are told that neo-liberal intervention is being increased to improve the Norths economy or to release the fiscal dependence on the Brits and you wonder why we think we would have been better on our own, don't think we could have been much worse.

  11. Robert

    I suspect you know my answer the your rather retorical question. Republicans do not seek to replace one failed entity with another failed entity. We desire to see national reunification and a homogenous national economy based on socialist principles. How this would look is a matter of conjecture as it is a totally revolutionary concept. Partition prevents us from exploring alternatives.

  12. David,

    I don't share your pessimistic outlook. The quantitative easing did not occur on an unsustainable basis nor is it arguably the literal printing of money.

    'Many Irish Republicans will be aware of this and some may seek to bring this to head as soon as possible.'

    The fact that the G8 summit is to be hosted in Fermanagh is indicative of how seriously that threat is being considered. David, if decades of much more substantial and sustained violence failed to put many corner shops, never mind N.Ireland, out of business how do you suggest the rump of that campaign will have an undermining influence today?


    '..the fact remains it couldn't stand on its own two feet for a nano-second.'

    The great benefit of being an integral part of the United Kingdom is the economic certainty that it doesn't have to.

    'So it might as well be in an all-Ireland context within the EEC.'

    A democratically endorsed rejection of the former is done and dusted and we are advancing down the road on a rejection of the latter. It appears we are destined to be part of neither.

  13. Sean Bres,

    I am au fait with what Republicanism proposes. My problem is the current relevance of a 97 year old manifesto. Almost,'.. all of the children of the nation..' have effectively told you to sod off. They prefer consumerism over the cult of Connolly.


    What would be brought about by the sating of your constitutional aspiration occurred to me to be more elementary than rhetorical.

    '..national reunification and a homogenous national economy based on socialist principles.'

    Economic and political bankruptcy to boot. An esoterical doctrine long past it's sell by date Alec.

  14. Robert,
    After reading Liam's piece maybe you sell the merits of continuing the British connection, given that they view us as a drain on their economy!

  15. Fionnuala,

    We are no more a drain than Wales. The real issues are the size of the public sector and an over dependency on welfare.

  16. Robert

    Our difference are clear and obvious. Capitalism is in crisis so unless we come with better ways to organise our economic affairs there may not be much of a future for our children's children to look forward to. We are using up natural resources at an alarming rate. Oil depoists are so depleted that most future conflicts will be over who controls what is left. World poverty condemns millions to an existence of starvation and death. The most powerful nation on the planet is crippled by massive debt. The Euro Zone is facing meltdown. So on and so forth.

    An economic system driven by profit and greed will ultimately lead to disaster. Socialism is not only a viable alternative to the current mode of production and distribution. It is a necessity.

    Socialism can hardly be described as an esoteric doctrine. It is a worldview.

    Perhaps you could address the article rather than having a go at us idealists.

  17. Robert

    By your estimation the 'north' is merely voting on which government will financially bail it out on a permanent basis rather than projecting a productive 'protestant' work ethic.

    Anything but be condemned to being Irish. Comical.

    The EEC is in a right mess, but I'm not sure it's going to vanish anytime soon. I do ponder how unionism/loyalism in the north will 're-reinvent' itself should Scotland vote for some form of independence. The confusion on loyalist ethnic and national identity can only deepen, if possible.

    I do agree with you on republicanism being akin to flogging a dead horse. Debt fuelled consumerism is the 'ideal' today. Republicans need to get in the time machine and press the 2013 button.


  18. Robert

    It is the scale of the ecomomic devestation south of Newry which I think has blindsided the British state

    Im not sure where you live but to say people are desperate in the 26 counties is not exagerating. The reality is that a huge per cent of outstanding debt has no chance what so ever of being repaid.

    I say this with not a snide grin but a grimace

  19. Larry,

    I too thought about the effect on unionism in the very unlikely event of Scotland going for independence. But I came to the conclusion that it will strengthen it. It will claim to have displayed a loyalty to the territorial integration of the UK when the Scots abandoned it and consequently ask for more respect from the UK state. More importantly it will reinforce the notion of the right to vote for independence and/or secession. The unionists will claim that the difference between them and the Scots is the matter of what state they vote to be independent from.

    I also think this is a matter republicans - particularly those who defend the right to dissent - need to discuss more. Myself and Danny Morrison tossed it about a bit at a debate in Oxford. How does a 'dissident' oppose the notion of a right to dissent from the nation?

    Is there an irreconcilable tension within republicanism in so far as it cannot accept any right to secede from the nation? That would seem to be more a nationalist position than a republican one.

    You and me touched on this before in reference to 'obligatory nationalism'.

  20. Alec,

    that is a good ethical critique. The problem remains however of making it applicable in strategic terms. Most people who make this argument, me being no exception, fail to persuade people of the strategic merits. Maybe because the economics of it are beyond us our discourse ends up sounding more rhetorical than applicable.


    how can there be an over dependence on welfare when without it people would suffer immensely. I think welfare is something society needs. I do feel there is an over dependence on greed as the motive force of the economy. I think society would be in a better position were it to eradicate greed rather than welfare.

  21. Robert,
    I think you have got your sums wrong. We don't cost anymore than Wales? according to financial reports in the Independent we were subsidised to the tune of 5 billion last year.
    Devolution has proved as big of a failed entity as the British connection. Over reliance on the public sector or welfare ( a cradle to grave commitment) for wars and over taxation does not even come close to explaining the mess here.
    Millions of pounds for flag protests and Orange marches a constant Drain on those you claim to be loyal to and an intricate part of.
    The real story Robert is, once they colonised and robbed, they set up a nice little planters paradise which they can no longer maintain their great manufactured and msnufacturing state is now dysfunctional and a very heavy drain on their British purse.

  22. Mackers

    It is indeed the line of difference between national identity and dissent. The miners dissented to the closing of 100+ mines and towns and communities with them in the 1980s. But they never believed they were anything other than British whilst they battled Thatcher.

    Loyalism is an ugly presence in Ireland and was designed for that purpose, to be ugly. There is no ehtnic/cultural or national empathy for the country they reside in.

    Loyalism is designed to be 'in your face' abuse to everything Irish. A permanent insult to hope and decency. A wee bit like what the Dail has become when I think of it!

  23. Larry,

    I am not sure what much of this means, in particular the reference to the miners.

    What you seem to refer to as loyalism is probably much narrower than unionism that wishes to dissent from the nation of Ireland. Should republicans recognise such a right to dissent? Is dissent from the nation any less legitimate than dissent from religion?

  24. Mackers

    You seem determined to start from 'today' like pol-pot. The reality of the history of Protestantism/loyalism/unionism hasn't changed since they arrived. As I said before the bellyaching over 1641 is as if they inherited the lands in Ulster from relatives and are amazed anyone took umbridge. The sticks and SF have attempted the old down on one knee 'surrender and regrant' capitulation to a wee gang of nazis that continues in its self interest at all costs agenda. You too now seem to be adopting the stance that decency will help them see the light. Only difference with SF I'm thinking is the ugliness and abruptness of their switch to a stance of pandering to Unionism.

    It will work no more than it would have for the Jews getting pushed onto the trains for Poland by nazis.

    When the wee minority in the N. East of this country have no big bully to protect them as they let their evil loose on their neighbours and when they soon become a minority in their 'promised land' of Ulster (sic) they will do what they always do, fuck-all.

    If the huns want to wave the union fleg around and concentrate on what they are NOT (Irish...or for that matter Scots, Welsh,English)rather than on defining who they are, let them get on with it. Demographic trajectory says they are bolloxed. They can stew in it for all I care.

  25. The miners mackers were a minority group within the UK and when minority groups come under pressure they react. That much I understand about the Prods. But the miners never had issue with their nationalty, that's my point, nor was king Arhtur suggesting Yorkshire or Nottingham were Argentinian territory.

  26. Larry,

    I don’t know what comment you have been reading but it could not have been mine. I didn’t state anything but merely asked you a question which you seemed to go around in circles in order to avoid answering.

    So I will ask again and I will even remove the unionists from it so as not to cloud your judgement: does a group of people have the right to dissent from a nation in the way that a group of people has the right to dissent from a religion? Is nationalism obligatory? Forget Sinn Fein and the Nazis and tell me what you think. If I thought your opinion was worthless I would not bother inviting it.

  27. Nothing wrong with dissent. It's healthy. To dissent from within the nation is different I'd suggest than removal from or deformity of a national territory.

    Minority groups should be respected and perhaps that is the ultimate measure of a society. But a particular minority group wanting to opt-out of the nation or reduce national territory is different i believe.

    Should Muslims arriving and wishing for a better life in France be permitted to remove Normandy (or part of it)from French national territory? I don't believe so. Should Bradford become Pakistani national territory? Certainly not old chap!

    Dissent is healthy within a nation. Indeed essential for things to function properly. If I want to dissent from the country I will remove myself from I'm going to do in December/January. Am I taking county Armagh with me? NO!

    Ireland needs more diversity within its territory not less. We are inbred hics. Absolutely dissent and change things within in an inclusive way. Protestants were on the money about romanism. Pitty they wouldn't hammer it home in a positive manner.

  28. Mackers,

    as always you pose difficult and awkward question for republicans to ponder. However, it has been my view in many of our discussions that you deal in moral and ethical absolutes. In the real world political and ethical principles are conditional rather than absolute. The right to dissent is not an unlimited one if it means overriding unversailly recognised norms. Sovereignty and self-determination are the agreed foundational principles of nationhood in the modern world. Most conflicts are based on competing claims to sovereignty or its denial. The right of secession based on ethnocultural identifcation is a dangerous concept. Where does it end? Would any or all groups with ethnocultural similarities have the same rights of secession in every case? The political, religions and cultural rights of minorities must be protected but this does not equate with a right of secession. In the context of dissenting from the nation you are obviouly considering the ethnocultural rights of protestants in the north east to exclude themslves from an Irish national democracy.

  29. Larry,

    thanks for your considered response.

    While there is a logic to your argument we can see the problems that arise from that becoming a universal rule. Should Bangladesh be reintegrated back into Pakistan, and once that happens should Pakistan be reintegrated back into India? It is not a question I expect you to answer any better than I can but it does problematise the totalising concept of the nation.

    Nations are not eternal entities that myths make them out to be. They came into being and at some point are likely to give way to other forms of political organisation. They are rarely geographically defined but are created by politics and economics. The island of Hispaniola gives rise to two separate nations: the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

    The argument can easily be made that republicanism is bound by people who make decisions about territory and not bound by territory that makes decisions about people, denying them the republican right to 'rule by the people.'

  30. Alec,

    at least you are one of those republicans that can see the problems this type of thing poses. I think I deal in categories rather than absolutes. Nor am I any more moral than you or the next person. Orwell said he wants to be good but not too good and not all the time. That's one of my religious beliefs! I think that probably applies to the bulk of us. But we use these categories to help us think not that we can ever attain to the standards they often set.

    I think those who can only see one outcome or method deal in absolutes. And we are all absolutist about some things - you and I that there are absolutely no conditions which allow the torture of prisoners.

    What I asked Larry, because he and I had discussed it before, is if there should be a right to dissent from a nation on a par with a right to dissent from a religion.

    The universally recognised norm on self determination is that it is a right but does not specify how that right should be exercised. I think that is why Mansergh and Hume outflanked us on the question of national self determination in the 1990s. When we tried to flag up what was happening within the movement as a result of this we were dismissed as not understanding politics by people like Gibney and Hartley whose vision extended to the ends of their noses. I always thought I understood politics much better than either of those two.

    Secession is a difficult concept and you are right to ask where it ends. But so is free speech. It does not mean that we suppress it because of the difficulties it presents.

    The political, religions and cultural rights of minorities must be protected but this does not equate with a right of secession.

    You seem to be suggesting here - which I don't think you mean - that people do not have an automatic right to secede from religion.

  31. Mackers,

    Is nationalism obligatory? At the personal level nothing is obligatory accept perhaps the civil law. The civil law obliges us to do certain things or suffer the consequences; this is the coercive nature of the state.

    The nation state is the basic unit binding peoples and recognised in international law. Until such times as other forms of legal and territorial formations come into being the nation state is the accepted norm. Those who seek to opt out must accept the consequences of that decision rather than seek to claim the right of seccession.

    The rights of minorities must be protected in law and upheld by the state. This is a fundamental democratic requirement.

  32. Mackers

    You 'fleg' up British creations in defence of your argument. Pakistan was formed out of India by the Brits and mass migration ensued in both directions.

    What I'm refusing to concede is that if enough people group together and migrate to a country they can unilaterally claim a part of that territory as independent.

    The obvious example being Israel. The amount of Russian, Eastern European and American Jews still flooding into Palastinian territory and building settlements is disgusting. No UN declaration makes any difference.

    Gibraltar is under Brit control, do you really believe it is as British as Finchley? The Brits were going to give the 'Falkland' islanders £100,000 each to be rid of the issue until Thatcher realised there was political mileage in a war. That's how British that territory really is.

    Yes boundaries change, usually as a result of wars between countries. Or if you look at the most prolongued and protracted ongoing conflicts, as a result of British involvement at some previous stage. If I steal your car, how long must I keep it until it is rightfully mine?

    In the case of minority groups redrawing national boundaries, I fear ABSOLUTELY NOT is the answer. And that goes quadrupple, at least, for alien and hostile minority groups recently or not so recently arrived.

    Don't confuse your admirable values, morals and human rights issues with national territory and identity issues.

  33. Mackers,

    whatever the reasons giving rise to geographically defined entities they do exsist. And in commonsense terms nations are often concieved in terms of definite borders. The history of nation states coming in to being, forming and reforming, has a lot to do with politics and economics. The territorial carve ups after the great wars are proof of this argument.

    Mansergh and Hume applied a conception of self determination which in my view invites the right of secession. Mansergh would not apply the same to the south which he views as a legimate political enity. The southern protestant population was decimated, especially in the border counties, as many protestants opted out of the 'catholic state'. Would they have had the right to secede rather than uproot?

    There is clearly a double standard being applied here. You were a head and shoulders above Gibney and Hartley, in my opinion.

  34. Alec,

    I think you are coming up against the conflict between the two poles in your thought. One is the personal libertarian and the other is the nationalist component of your republicanism.

    Never allow the law to set the standards of morality. What might be legally obligatory as you know does not mean we must morally comply.

    International law allows for secession. Pakistan and Bangladesh are recognised states in international law. It allows for people to make decisions as to how they self determine. I don't know of anybody who claims that international law is only on the side of those who oppose secession. What is the status of the North in international law? If international law is what you feel it is then the North exists in violation of international law. While we might argue that such is the case morally, it would appear to have no basis in international legal fact.

    The rights of minorities must be protected in law and upheld by the state. This is a fundamental democratic requirement.

    Which is what the unionists are arguing and unfortunately for us seem to have cornered the international law market on that very point.

  35. Mackers,

    you have a habit of flaging up percieved weaknesses in others arguments. I don't see that there is a contradiction at all. You, I feel, take the right to dissent to a new level. I don't find it so strange that I think in a nationalistic framework but it is certainly not reductionist to the extent you suggest. I am aware of the ethnocultural differences of the protestant population in the north east and the problems this poses for republicans.

  36. I did not say the law sets moral standards. I merely pointed out that the state imposes penalities on those who break or opt out of the legal contract i.e the relationship between the citizen and the state.

  37. Mackers.

    I have not suggested that secession is illegal under international law. However, sovereignty is a first principle. Had the pieds-noirs in Algeria or the white supremacists in South Africa a superior right to secession? Does the right of secession extend to all populations with origins in colonialism? If so this would negate the national liberation struggles leading to the process of decolonialisation. And when would you say the protestant population in the noth east aquired the right to dissent from the nation? Would those counties with catholic majorities during partiton have had the right to opt out of the treaty settlement? We could get into a tennis match of batting examples back and forward.

    The Republican position is a simple one: The Irish people as a whole have the same right to national sovereignty as any other people.

  38. Alec,

    is that not what debate is about - dealing with a perceived weakness in what we come up against? We probe it and if we don't get past it we consider it not only a strength in the opposite argument but a weakness in our own, which we have to address. Either that or continue with the very logic that failed us.

    The biggest problem with being wrong in any argument is not having the ability to see it. Being wrong or not knowing something is ok. Defending it when we know we are wrong is a greater difficulty.

    Have to rush out here but there are some good points from both you and Larry that I will return to.

  39. mackers

    'And when would you say the protestant population in the noth east aquired the right to dissent from the nation?'

    At what stage since their uninvited arrival did they engage with and co-operate with the locals?

    They have the right to dissent from the nation when they get on the boat back out of it, if they hate it so much.

  40. Larry,

    Minority groups should be respected and perhaps that is the ultimate measure of a society. But a particular minority group wanting to opt-out of the nation or reduce national territory is different I believe.

    It certainly takes dissent to a different level but boundaries in these matters are fluid (not referring to physical boundaries) and contestable.

    Should Muslims arriving and wishing for a better life in France be permitted to remove Normandy (or part of it) from French national territory?

    What if everybody agrees that it should be? Has a nation a right to relinquish part of its own territory? Is it down to practicalities on a case by case basis?

    If I want to dissent from the country I will remove myself from it

    I suppose that is one way of addressing the question of dissenting from a religion that makes it somewhat different from dissenting from a nation.


    I did not say the law sets moral standards.

    No, you didn’t but I was thinking out loud so to speak rather than addressing what you had said on the matter.

    You, I feel, take the right to dissent to a new level.

    I see it as I see free speech – it becomes freer to the extent that it pushes against boundaries. I don’t think the North should have the right to secede but that is just my opinion, not something I can claim authority to inflict on anyone else who disagrees with me. I want to look at the issue from a right to dissent perspective.

  41. Larry,

    Pakistan is interesting because whether a British creation or a British acquiescence in what Pakistanis were already creating themselves due to a severe distrust of India, does Pakistan have the right to exist or should it be reintegrated back into the Indian state?

    And what should happen with Bangladesh? Had it the right to secede and fragment the national integrity of Pakistan? Even with self serving Indian interference East Pakistan I still think the people of East Pakistan given the level of repression from West Pakistan had the right to secede.

    What I'm refusing to concede is that if enough people group together and migrate to a country they can unilaterally claim a part of that territory as independent.

    While that seems sound what happens when over the course of time, none of the original seizers there, the people of the country decide that they will make an arrangement that leads to territorial reconfiguration of some sort? Who decides – the people or some written in stone nationalist prescript?

    Gibraltar is under Brit control, do you really believe it is as British as Finchley?

    I don’t. But it does little to clarify the discussion one way or the other.

    If I steal your car, how long must I keep it until it is rightfully mine?

    What if after you and I have gone my son decides to relinquish ownership of it to your son? Is he bound by my original ownership?

    In the case of minority groups redrawing national boundaries, I fear ABSOLUTELY NOT is the answer.

    What about majority groups?

    Don't confuse your admirable values, morals and human rights issues with national territory and identity issues.

    Don’t confuse my use of those categories for purposes of debate as values. But it does pose an interesting question of which is more important – the protection of human rights or national boundaries?

    I don’t have a principled opposition to secession, thinking it has to be looked at on a case by case basis. What choice did East Pakistan, for example, have? I think the Marxist position on the matter was the most beneficial: if secession diminished repression/oppression then is it permissible. If it increases repression/oppression then it is to be opposed.

  42. Dixie,

    yet wasn't it supposed to be the case that the Provos did not come for Joe O'Connor? Didn't the IRA and Sinn Fein lie about it at the time? Isn't that why the mob picketed my home? Well fair play to Michalehenry - the first to break ranks on the matter.

  43. Larry,

    And when would you say the protestant population in the noth east aquired the right to dissent from the nation?

    Where did I say this?


    If secession is not illegal under international law then there is no absolute right one way or the other, either to secede or to prevent secession.

    Sovereignity being a first principle is what allows secession I imagine. The emphasis is placed on self determination rather than national self determination. Then there is the question of how national self determination is to be exercised. These things are complicated and which you have thought about given the questions you raise.

    As for pied noirs and white supremacists it seems to me that this is the strongest argument against secession. But reverse the position to a situation where a people are brutally repressed within a nation, would you oppose their right to secede as in the case of East Pakistan? I can’t think of an argument that would make me feel comfortable if it was against secession in those cases. It is the type of thing we went through in the jail in the early 80s as part of the Marxist discussions and before I arrived at the conclusion that Marxism was the opium of the Marxists, in what conditions is secession to be supported or opposed?

    And when would you say the protestant population in the north east acquired the right to dissent from the nation?

    I have not said it. To do so would mean I agree with the partition/consent principle which I never have, one of the main reasons for my opposition to the GFA. But it is a question that allows us to think about the nuances involved. But given today’s situation I think those who defend the consent principle must at the same time be obliged to accept the right of those counties in the North to secede from the British state and become part of the Republic as it is called here.

    Would those counties with catholic majorities during partition have had the right to opt out of the treaty settlement?


    We could get into a tennis match of batting examples back and forward.

    That’s the challenge. But unlike many others this has been discussed with you seem to see the difficulty.

    The Republican position is a simple one: The Irish people as a whole have the same right to national sovereignty as any other people.

    But not the right to decide how they will exercise that right?

    As I said, I think this is where Mansergh and Hume outmanoeuvred us.

  44. Mackers

    'if secession diminished repression/oppression then is it permissible. If it increases repression/oppression then it is to be opposed.'

    At what point did loyalism and the Protestant ascendancy (or notion of it) become a 'positive' in Ireland?

  45. when it challenged fascism in Europe while nationalism was flirting with it and the IRA collaborating with it. But in general I agree with your point about it its negative side dwarfing its positive. But the nationalist dimension leaves a lot to be desired. You probably noticed when you were in jail how reticent republicans were to describe themselves as nationalist

  46. Mackers

    Those who set up the UVF did so with tory backing and imported German arms.
    Casement was executed for merely attempting to do the same.

    Why was it any Irishman's obligation to defend the British Empire? Had it been benevolent and universally generous to the Irish nation? Citizens were free to make the call for themselves, and did so.

    In relation to the stolen car analagy, some grandchildren would still recognize that car as grandads. Four green fields etc. Regardless of quizling cop-outs, a crime is a crime is a crime!

  47. Larry,

    fighting fascism De Valera signing a book of condolence on the death of Hitler. FFS.

  48. Mackers

    Nazi germany and the Brits have much more in common than Queen Elizabeth and co. De Valera was likely coming from the position of my enemies enemy is my friend. Can't say for sure, I wasn't around then nor close to him.

    By all accounts the Brits did more damage in France than the Nazis and were more loathed in Malaya post WW2 than the Japanese occupiers during the war.

    I don't get your point.

  49. Fascists (loyalists) fighting fascists (hitler) 'result. Best thing happened loyalism was the Somme, love that!

  50. Larry,

    Somme - the shock jock isn't gonna work here. Been around the block too many times not to have seen it all before.

    Even if Dev was coming at it from the position you state is that meant to be a defence - a friend of the Nazis?

    By what accounts did the Brits do more damage? The allied bombing campaign there left a lot to be desired and produced much French resentment. And they were up to their necks in war crimes by carpet bombing civilian Germany. And arguably they waited too long to open up a Western Front and left the bulk of the anti-Nazi fighting to the Soviets. But is there any argument that can be made for not choosing them over the Nazis?

    Point you don't get is very simple: unionism in general had a more progressive position to the scourge of Nazism than nationalism in general. And that is not to take anything away from the nationalists who died in the ranks of whatever army fighting Nazism.

  51. Mackers

    there are few circumstances that would allow for secession except maybe the one you raise. Unionism does not fall in to this category.

    Elements within the British ruling class courted fascism before the war. Many displayed a regard for Hitler and the National Socialism.

  52. Alec,

    there are more than the one I raised - Pakistan itself which gave rise to Bangladesh. As a matter of coincidence I was in that first wing with you in 82 when I read The East Pakistan Tragedy. There is also the question of secession in Yugoslavia which I guess is what made secession come to be discussed more widely.

    That said it is only a small minority of cases in which it has happened. Most people who allow for it (as I would) only do so in very limited circumstances which include repression and the viability of a secessionist state.

    What way it will go once we pass on from the nation state mode of political organisation I have no idea. I guess we will have secession from international regimes and institutions.

    While the unionists might not in our view have an ethical right to secede it is a fait accompli that is now a legal right enshrined in international law which has given them the right to self determination. They now have the legal right to secede from Britain as well.

    The question for republicans is given all the circumstances should unionists be coerced? I don't believe they should. I don't agree with the consent principle but am not willing to consider coercion as a means of addressing it. Just as the unionists are not as you point out, enduring repression to the extent that they have secessionist rights, nationalists are not experiencing repression to the extent that that would justify the use of coercion against the unionists. So, I guess we are stuck with things as they are until somebody comes up with a plausible strategy. Everything doesn't work out quite like we want to. And in my case nothing works out the way I want it to!

  53. Mackers

    'Point you don't get is very simple: unionism in general had a more progressive position to the scourge of Nazism than nationalism in general. And that is not to take anything away from the nationalists who died in the ranks of whatever army fighting Nazism.'

    You really believe that? It was self interest and promotion within the UK as a prerequisit to partition. That was their only motive. Otherwise, where were they during the Spanish civil war?

    Like I say. Not sure what your reasoning is there. Complementary to a fault.

    A nazi is a Nazi period. My point is why fight for or against any of them, what interest did it serve Ireland?

    Although I do declare I am as happy that O'Duffy and co went to Spain as I am the UVF went to Flanders.

  54. Larry,

    It was self interest and promotion within the UK as a prerequisit to partition. That was their only motive. Otherwise, where were they during the Spanish civil war?

    They already had partition. They did not need to fight fascism to win what they already had. But whatever their motives, they took a progressive stance which can hardly be denied. The Spanish civil war looked very much a local affair. Had Franco threatened the world in the manner that the Nazis did the response of the unionists would most likely have been the same.

    My point is why fight for or against any of them, what interest did it serve Ireland?

    If you genuinely don’t see the benefit of fighting fascism I am not going to try and persuade you. Ireland in a fascist free Europe would be much better than Ireland in a fascist dominated Europe. But that would seem self evident to the point that it hardly requires elaboration.

  55. got my WW's mixed up there.
    personally i see no benfit dying for the brits. Dev got it politically correct with neutrality. Economically is another issue.

    UK+USA foreign policy today is little different than Hitler. Same goes for their human rights.

    They merely monopolised the media better and take on one country at a time after prolongued sanctions.

  56. And where they should have militarily intervened they didn't - Rwanda.

  57. Mackers,

    I did not mean particular cases but the category i.e repression or genocidal attack. The issue of coercion in politics is an interesting one indeed. Often in the world of realpolitik decisions/choices are made with a element of coercion. The best example of this in our own history was the threat of 'immediate and terrible war' as a way of pressurising Collins et al to sign the treaty. I believe that unionism must face up to the anti democration position it occupies by denying the Irish sovereignty. The likelyhood of them doing so while the connection with Britian remains is remote. It is possible to accomodate the unionist position in all of it complexity within a national democracy. In my view this m,akes the republican democratic principle superior to the unionst right of veto or secession.

  58. Alec,

    all law is based on coercion - disobey and you will be coerced. But in general we consent to the conditions under which we may be coerced and want that safeguarded from incursion by arbitrary acts.

    The problem here is that unionism has been underpinned by the majority of Irish people. It might be a refracted endorsement but it is endorsement. It might well be historically produced and is a legacy but it is real.

    So the question becomes a strategic one of what to do when force can't work, too many think the benefits of force are outweighed by the costs, and the effects of living with what exists is not too great outside of the ideological sentiments of a small number. Amd with sovereignty being diluted all the time in a world that is inch by inch moving towards global/regional and away from the national, people have other priorities. And perhaps out of a respect for rights they might think that the use of coercion will violate more rights than it can make right.

    It is not that people ethically or politically endorse unionism or secession but calculate that in the round there is more to be gained or less to be violated by avoiding the use of coercion to solve what is a problem.

    But if every problem is viewed as a nail every solution becomes a hammer. People choose not to live like that.

  59. mackers

    i find it funny that anyone could put the words progressive and loyalist/unionist in the same sentence. Not during the days of the Empire did they shirk at participation in all manner of evil. Even today should the crown venture on some toxic foray they jump at the chance. All to bolster their leverage with London in regards to Ireland. (emotional blackmail)

    I think we are talking about different shades of fascism rather than a mythical progressive nature of unionism.

  60. That might make them more opportunistic than fascist - not much different from SF in that regard. Then I think of rendition flights through Dublin.

  61. Mackers,

    we are covering old ground. The trends globally are towards greater inter dependence and yet all of the conflicts today are on issues of self determination and sovereignty. It is conceivable people will seek greater self dertermination rather than less due to the negative effects of globalisation and other forces driving economic assimilation. Nothing is certain to go in a single direction.

    The unionist veto is ant-democratic because it prevents a greater will of the people coming in to being. Whether the reasons are historical or not does little to alter this fact.

    What force do you actually fear? Do you think the veto rests on resonable and virtous attitudes? Why not give the Irish people as a whole the final say? Why go through intellectual and constitutional hoops to support a miniority position on the island?

    Look, we will always see this through diferent eyes.

  62. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  63. SF are actively sinking their own for acceptability in British society.

  64. Larry,

    post that again. I hit delete by mistake. Sorry

  65. was that one of mine removed?

  66. lol mackers don't be getting cranky now.

    I think i confirmed loyalism as opportunistic. Also mentioned that Spain was fascist under Franco until 1979 without anyone complaining. Even after what he did to the Basques. Opportunists and hypocrites run the planet. I'm just thankful i was perfect until recently when i bacame big-headed.

  67. Alec,

    I deleted Larry's by mistake. I asked him to repost.

    Nations came. They will as surely go. Capitalism did much to shape them and pull them together. That’s why socialism has little in the way of romantic attachment to them, seeing them either as an aid or impediment to progress. That is why we have more affinity to the foreign Left than the Irish Right.

    People will seek more self determination but it need not necessarily be national. Nationalism and progress don’t always go hand in hand.

    The Irish people democratically underwrite the veto and there is nothing we can do to change that.
    Coercion against the will of the Irish people which they do not underwrite will cause more problems for the Irish people than it will eradicate.

    Do you think the veto rests on reasonable and virtuous attitudes?

    It rests on people not wanting to be ruled by Dublin.

    Why not give the Irish people as a whole the final say?

    The Irish people are not demanding that and seem prepared to wait until a majoirty in the North make up their minds about the matter. If they demand a say, reject the GFA and the consent principle they most definitely should be given it along with a say as to how they should respond in the event of not getting the result they want. I would welcome a referendum in which the Irish people as a unit were asked what it is they want to be free from most – the consent principle or republican violence. Then I would like to see the republican response.

    Why go through intellectual and constitutional hoops to support a minority position on the island?

    Who does that? The vast bulk of people in this country reject our republicanism. To overcome that opposition some republicans go through hoops and torturous logic insisting that the Irish people can be free from this but not that. Freedom invariably means the freedom to decide what freedom is.

  68. Larry,

    I was trying to write he died in 75 when I hit the delete button

  69. Did fascism survive 4 yrs beyond him or is my date totally wrong? Anyhow even 1975 is quite a while after the 'world' (and ulster unionism lol)faught to defeat fascism.

  70. No. But they did stage a coup attempt in 81

  71. Mackers.

    so you agree that political and economic formations will come and go. Marx, Engles, Lenin and Connolly all pointed to the importance of the Irish struggle for independance to the struggles of the British working class movement. Self-determination and sovereignty are still key demands of the left today. A federation of free nations based on socialist principles will proceed the disapperance of nation states. Cuitural,ethnic and religious diversity will not disappear in the future communistic society.

    Internationalism and progess do not always go hand in hand.

    The will of the Irish people expressed within a partitionist framework is a corruption of the democratic principle. The unionists have never been found wanting in their willingness to use violence to support their veto even when the republican threat was not present.

  72. Why not welcome a single national referendum on the issue of untiy? This would appear a more sensible route.

  73. We've come full circle as always, Mackers.

    Good night.

  74. Mackers,

    this not a question of right or wrong. I am defending a position which has been the basis of Republicanism since partition. My view of the veto is that it is anti-democratic and politically constructuced for the purpose of denying the sovereign rights to the Irish people. You are entitled to disagree as you do.

  75. Alec,

    because a thing has a democratic basis does not mean we have to like it or even agree with it. Democracy can express itself in a number of ways and produce a variety of outcomes. I am compelled to accept that there is a democratic basis to partition even if I fundamentally disagree with what people have democratically assented to. We have been outmanoeuvred on this. It is not as if we did not try to point out 20 years ago what was happening and they sought to silence us for doing so.

    And as you are aware one of the turn offs for me in respect of republicanism was its strong anti-democratic streak. It was simply overriding the rights of too many people.

    I would welcome a single referendum on the issue of unity. But a referendum is a golden opportunity to get answers to a whole range of issues so why only waste it one issue? It seems a simple matter asking:

    1/ do the Irish people prefer a unified country?

    2/ Should the Irish people exercise the use of force to achieve Irish unity?

    I am quite willing to abide by the answer to both and in doing so submitting to the democratic will of my fellow citizens. And it gives you the referendum you want.

  76. Alec,

    nations and nations states may or may not be the best arrangements that societies devise for managing their affairs. There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about nations. In my view people should determine nations rather than nations determining people. That is probably one point of friction betwen republicanism and nationalism. Nationalism only appeals to me to the extent that it minimises harm.

    Self-determination and sovereignty are still key demands of the left today.

    They are and should be but both are wider than nationalism. Secessionists demand sovereignity over the area they wish to see secede, not necessarily the nation. Self determination is a broad concept and is not restricted to the national. Being, like myself, an old jail house libertarian, you should recognise that easily enough. It is what in large part drives much of the moral thinking behind abortion, right to die. The right to self determine at the individual level is crucial to human autonomy and freedom. This is why I favour individual rights so much.

    What 'future communistic society.'?

    Unionist and British violence has been criticised by me all my days. I am very much aware of it, more so than many of my former comrades who seem to have forgotten it. I just don't overlook the problems with republican violence and the rights it denies. I can hardly expect people to support my call for prisoners rights on the basis that I am serious about rights if at the same time I am taking over people's houses, holding people against their will, hijacking their cars, taking risks with their lives.

  77. Mackers'

    you are free to recognise anything you like but don't attempt to box me in with your arguments. Again, I stress that I do not share your view of the democratic nature of the GFA. The mechanisms were constructed within the parameters of partition and for me that is the basic objection. It is so democratic that a minority opinion in the north trumps the majority opinion in the south. Add to this the 'tripple lock' and we are clearly dealing with a loaded dice.

    I still contend that the democratic principle favoured by republicanism as the basis for resolving the conflict is vastly superior to the carefully crafted mechanism contained in the GFA.

    Republicanism is based on universal sufferage and popular governance. Fascistic traits have more to do with politcal culture and organisational form than with the ideology itself.

    Historical unionism has sought to exclude itself from the Irish nation. Organised violence has been used against catholics invloving state and paramilitary agents. I invite you to state the case for unionist separation and the legitmacy of such methods?

    Self determination is a broad concept and is not restricted to the national.

    This is true in some cases but mostly it is understood in the context of sovereignty i.e territorial integrity. Ethnocultural similarities is not enough to support a claim of secession without there also being an existential threat.

  78. Alec,

    I will continue to try and box you in and you are free to do the same to me! That is what debate is about. Am I supposed not to box you in or are you supposed not to snare me? That would be an old boys' club debate.

  79. Anthony,

    'how can there be an over dependence on welfare when without it people would suffer immensely?'

    The welfare system as it currently stands is bank rolling the DLA taxi, the employed job seeker and the housing benefit sub let etc to a greater extent than it is providing the safety net as envisaged by Beveridge.

  80. Robert,

    to the extent that that is true it could be diverted to the NHS, the Education system, or public transport, rather than back to the pockest of the greedy. I simply cannot get riled over somebody doing the double or fiddling a few quid when there is a royal family sponging mega bucks off society. That seems a much bigger crime than what the grifter on the street is doing.

  81. Robert,

    I deleted one of your comments as it was a duplicate of the first. Not censoring you!!

  82. Anthony,

    'Not censoring you!!'

    The deletion was simultaneous I think - only you beat me to the draw! That would never occur to me in any event.

    I would prefer to maintain the monarchy in the form of the Windsors than a welfare system that sustains a culture that is exemplified by the Philpotts. I should emphasise that I am specifically referring to the culture and not the crime.

  83. Robert a cara I get the feeling the Philpotts will be a big stick to further beat welfare reforms into the already battered people relying on benefits.

  84. Robert,

    yet the royals have leeched more from British society in a year than the Philpotts have leeched in a generation. In my view much worse than the culture of welfare is the culture of greed. If you look at matters down here the effort expended in devising elaborate plans to catch benefit fraud as against the nonchalant approach towards banker fraud tends to show that crime is not targeted because it is wrong but because of the values that shape the mindset of law enforcement.

    There will always be people who abuse whatever opportunity. I am old enough not to buy into notions that glorify the oppressed, for long having been impressed by Napoleon's idea that among the oppressed are many who like to oppress. And I know the 'working class' will as quickly cut your throat as the next class. But the greed and inequality that society is built upon seems plain and simply egregious.

  85. Robert-

    " a welfare system that sustains a culture "

    Well the welfare system looks after the windsor family and is giving them an extra 5 million next year-the welfare system does not ask the windsor family to pay any bedroom tax-the family with the most bedrooms is allowed a get out clause-unlike every other family in england with less bedrooms-you must be so proud-

  86. Brave New North: Neoliberalism in the Six Counties...


    Socialism can hardly be described as an esoteric doctrine. It is a worldview.

    But that can be said of anything. It more resembles a marginalised discourse than a view that is anchored in popular movements globally. More often than not it is a slogan. You would imagine that it should be a worldview but the top down socialist bureaucrats have damaged the project perhaps beyond repair