Dopey Sheep and Vicious Dogs

Guest writer Helen McClafferty with her take on the collapse of the Haass talks which she lays out as an introduction to another piece she surges people to read. It was penned by Gerry McGeough back in 1995 while he was a republican political prisoner in the US.

The apparent collapse of the Haass Initiative once again shows that the Unionists have a very effective veto over all and any developments in the Six-Counties that might smack of progress for the Nationalist community.

Over the past year or so they have managed to block or otherwise undermine a long list of projects that may have been of benefit to Nationalists. These include a motorway from the Monaghan/Tyrone border to Derry City, a bridge linking counties Louth and Down and the Long Kesh development to name but some.

Towards the end of December, meanwhile, the DUP Stormont Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton, managed to outmaneuver the Stormont Agriculture Minister, Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill, and prevent the transfer of £110 million in funds to cash starved, largely Nationalist community projects. Ironically, Hamilton used a Catholic Diplock Court judge to get his way. In typical timid-style Sinn Féin’s O’Neill did not challenge the ruling.

Part of the problem facing Nationalists, who are now the majority in the Six-Counties, lies in the fact that they have pathetically poor political leadership. Those supposedly protecting Nationalist interests have come to resemble a huddle of dazed, dopey sheep standing petrified while vicious Unionist dogs run rings around them.

A more significant problem is that under British-controlled Stormont Nationalists will forever be kept “in their place”. The time has now come to think outside the box.

I recently came across an old article which I found very interesting, considering that the Sinn Féin strategy to bring about a United Ireland has now collapsed into a hopeless mess. It was written by Gerry McGeough in December, 1995 when he was an Irish Republican political prisoner here in the United States. The article was one of Gerry’s very popular Éireann go Brách columns, which he wrote for The Irish People during his time in the States.

I asked Gerry if I could reproduce it and he agreed. Re-reading it he noted that most of it still holds true even after almost twenty years. This was long before the Good Friday Agreement and he admits that he didn’t think then that the Irish people would have abandoned Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution so easily, even though they were mostly symbolic in nature.

He also said that the proposed new Super-Councils would provide a better vehicle for Secession than the Westminster constituencies outlined in the original. He emphasized that it could be achieved through peaceful political action and that there would be no need for standing armies in the current context. Otherwise, he feels that the idea still has merit.

I think so too and hope that it will spark some kind of debate and much-needed new thinking on Irish independence.


The Need to Secede December 1995 By Gerry McGeough

Futurologists, those sober-minded individuals who analyze current trends in politics, finance, commerce, demographics, sociology and so forth in order to predict future developments in society, must find themselves in the realm of the opaque where the six counties are concerned. Such is the mixed cauldron of variables there right now that standard procedures of divination are unlikely to yield much in the way of enlightenment.

Indeed, futurologists might as well abandon their regular modus operandi and just haul out the chicken entrails for all the foresight they’re liable to receive. One gut feeling’s as good as the next in the current context.

That said, and in spite of all the contradictions, strains, backtracking, posturing and confusion so evidently inherent in the peace process, a broadly discernible albeit ostensibly unfocused development is emerging. At its most rudimentary, this would seem to imply the concept of an Assembly eventually evolving from a series of protracted talks. Talks, of course, being a euphemism for negotiations of labyrinthine complexity; not forgetting a liberal dash of the histrionics and temper tantrums so beloved by unionist politicians.

Participants to such an Assembly – Lord preserve us lest anyone should refer to it as being “Stormont-like” – would, presumably be elected representatives drawn from the various hues of nationalist and unionist opinion within the six counties. Like all practical politicians, the need to ply their trade would override any inhibitions about violating those ever-irksome earlier stances on this and that. Besides, wasn’t “Principle” a book by Machiavelli or something?! By Assembly time, most of the holy cattle would have been already packed off to the abattoir in any case.

The main thing would be that politicians could do what they do best, namely: obfuscate, legislate (to some devolved extent at least), debate, speechify, pretend whatever needs to be pretended at all and any given times and, of course, express outrage at the behaviour of opponents while masking relief at not being on the skewer themselves. Now, what else was there? . . . Oh yes, serve constituents, naturally.

Added to this would be the lure of being in a position to appropriate slices of the lucrative flow of international funds towards the dreams and schemes of needy, deserving, and, above all, loyal voters. Such an Assembly, under British auspices with perhaps some joint authority input from Dublin, all within the European context, could roll along nicely for several political lifetimes, thank you very much indeed. Hey. If it leads to a united Ireland, then fine! Since we’re all presumed utilitarian at heart, I’m sure everyone could accommodate themselves to whatever arrangement might be necessary in the interim.

A few years from now, though, committed Irish nationalists might want to explore the merits of the secession factor. “Secession” isn’t quite the term when referring to areas of Ireland under British occupation, but it’ll suffice for now. This would entail the overwhelmingly nationalist areas of occupied Ulster simply declaring their independence from Britain. These areas would include all of Counties Tyrone and Fermanagh, Derry City, most of County Derry, North Antrim, West Belfast, South Down, South Armagh and considerable chunks of Mid-and North Armagh. In short, most of the six-county land area! Since the British hacked up our country on a county-by-county basis during Partition, what’s to stop us taking it back bit by bit, unpalatable as that may be for most of us, if all else fails?

In the wake of a carefully conducted, efficient political campaign on the issue, a Westminster general election could provide the opportunity for putting the secession program into effect. Secessionist candidates standing in constituencies covering each of the areas mentioned, would make it clear that once elected they would fulfil the wishes of their voters by withdrawing their districts from the so-called United Kingdom – having an obvious mandate to do so.

At that point, they could register their independent status at the United Nations and apply to join the rest of Ireland to form a single political unit. This, of course, would be a mere formality provided Dublin retains Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution. Either way, the newly independent areas of Ulster would be entitled to raise a standing army to defend themselves against British aggression.

Britain, of course, would never tolerate or permit such a state of affairs and would undoubtedly clamp down on subsequent civil disobedience from the self-liberated denizens of Ulster. So be it! The Irish nationalist cause would be back on the agenda once more and the freedom struggle a burning issue again; this time for a new generation of Irish patriots and our overseas Diaspora. Could the secession issue become a challenge for courageous visionaries in years to come? A new test for the famed stamina, tenacity and ingenuity of our people perhaps? Don’t bother to ask the futurologists – just read Irish history! Meantime, back to Stormont! Éireann go brách!


  1. True Helen very true and an excellent piece.

    McGuinness whines that..."Extremists are being allowed to hijack Haass proposals by unionists"

    Surely the extremists, which are in actual fact the Unionists themselves, hijacked the GFA and the Haass proposals are yet another SF attempt at getting something off them?

  2. "The main thing would be that politicians could do what they do best, namely: obfuscate, legislate (to some devolved extent at least), debate, speechify, pretend whatever needs to be pretended at all and any given times and, of course, express outrage at the behaviour of opponents while masking relief at not being on the skewer themselves. Now, what else was there? . . . Oh yes, serve constituents, naturally"

    Could have been written yesterday

  3. I see Marty Mc Guinness has yet to figure out that unionist will always push the unionist agenda.
    I am not sure what SF were expecting from the Haas waste of tax payers money talks but Mc Guinness should accept that SF failed again and give it a rest.

    Though it is amusing as one dictator calls the other dictator a dictator now they got nowhere dealing with idiot issues is there any chance they will actually deal with real problems.

  4. No chance - dealing with the issues is not on the agenda, keeping them going to facilitate a continuation of the sectarian carve-up is what's really going on

  5. Sean,

    it doesn’t take much to feed the sectarian conveyer belt the failure of the unnecessary Haas talks is just more evidence of the carving up.
    When sectarianism spills out on the streets they are quick in condemnation is it any wonder why it does considering politicians play the orange and green cards when it suits their agenda.

    It is pathetic they can’t iron out extremely minor issues like flags and parades what realistic chances have serious issues of being resolved.