From an Emigrant’s Perspective

Guest writer Martin Dino McGarrigle shares his thoughts on the  receding hopes for a united Ireland.
The Scottish referendum has brought into sharp focus the problems that we Irish will face down the road.  Ask any member of SF how they still plan to gain the Republic and they’ll say “we’ll vote them out.” I’m sure any Scots man would’ve said the same 200 years ago.

The problem is that it’s been so long that they (the Scottish) are now assimilated into the United Kin...gdom.  For anyone in any doubt of that fact, especially those from Strabane, three words - The Black Watch.

The passive acceptance of "Britishness" is already flourishing among the nationalists of the North.  Our language is already permeated with “Britspeak” – I’ve been home and had former Republican prisoners ask me whereabouts “on the mainland” I live!
Most nationalists will tell you they're from "Northern Ireland." This is of course a result of decades of British controlled media constantly bombarding us with these terms to the point where everyone sees them as the norm.

The problem in the nationalist community now is that right from the Civil Rights Movement up to the Hunger Strikes the job of getting equal rights was done too well. Catholics wanted a fair share and now they’re content with their lot (in the most part.)

We now have a Catholic population in the North that is largely upper-working class/ middle class or aspiring to be so. And they will vote with their wallets.

Now that there’s no longer an aggressive nationalist/Republican agenda.The man on the street will surely look to his financial security before he looks at his country.

The H-Blocks were an ugly scar on the face of the world and the world eventually rose up in protest against them. Most importantly the nationalist communities both North and South came together in a way not seen for decades.

Yet there’s young (and some not so young) men languishing in Maghaberry tonight and you’ll never hear a word about them. Now that "peace" has broken out most Catholics are happy to put such uncomfortable thoughts to the back of their minds and will continue to do so while it has no impact on most of their lives or those of their neighbours or families.

And that’s just the North. Does anyone in their right mind really believe that Southerners will vote for a United Ireland? Why would they? From a sense of national pride? That hasn't existed since the hunger strikes.

The abandonment of the armed struggle was a double-edged sword. There’s nothing for southerners to get passionate about and the pragmatists among them will no doubt be in the majority.

What’s going to happen in Scotland is pretty inevitable and for all the bearded-one’s Machiavellian manoeuvring it’s what’ll happen in the North too.

“The ballot box and the bullet?”

Well they gave up the latter and because of that the former will come home and bite them in the arse.


  1. Good article Martin. Regarding those prisoners in Maghaberry, I recall at the start of the 2000's several members of SF in Strabane declaring that there were no Republican prisoners in jail. That in fact all Republican prisoners had been release post '98 and that those inside were just criminals, druggies etc.

    My brother in law was on remand at the time and later my partner was in along with her 2 co-accused. The attitude at that time was that as they did not come from a certain group then they did not fit the bill.

    Years later many of those same people went on to join other groups and suffered the same discrimination from their former colleagues.

    Even as recent as last year at the SF ard fheis a Belfast telegraph poll recorded "just over a third of delegates (34%) believed that violent dissidents were criminals"

    Terence O'Neill once famously said "In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph published on 10 May 1969 he stated: "It is frightfully hard to explain to Protestants that if you give Roman Catholics a good job and a good house they will live like Protestants because they will see neighbours with cars and television sets; they will refuse to have eighteen children. But if a Roman Catholic is jobless, and lives in the most ghastly hovel he will rear eighteen children on National Assistance. If you treat Roman Catholics with due consideration and kindness they will live like Protestants in spite of the authoritative nature of their Church...""

    I believe that is where we sit today in our society. The jobs for the boys have paid off. Easy credit led to a few more home comforts and now the majority of people are happy with the status quo.

    I believe we are further away now from a United ireland than we have ever been. The present leaders will not and cannot deliver it. And there are currently no others who can viably fight for the position to take over.

    To quote Bernadette Mcaliskey "the war is over and the good guys lost".

  2. Nice to see you on the Quill Martin, interesting line of thought. I'd have to agree with Rob that a United Ireland is getting further away the longer this process goes on but we have to find ways to challenge it regardless. The strength of the Agreement is its ability to maintain an absence to the bloodshed that ripped society apart, the reality is people are frightened out of their wits that it might ever return and don't want it for their children. Any attempt at a viable alternative strategy needs to countenance this reality. I still think it can be done and really feel the One Ireland-One Vote strategy of the Societies has massive potential if it can be unearthed

  3. It's a good day to remember and acknowledge the active and pragmatic leadership qualities of Albert Reynolds who moved the process on by actively engaging in dialogue with representative of the warring parties to the conflict.

    Following on to discussion with the Loyalists it was Albert I believe who introduced the idea of dropping the south's constitutional claim on the north. The pragmatist that he was gambled that by moving towards an absence of conflict would deliver potential economic benefits for both states, and the resulting increase in 'quality of life' for more citizens would trump ideological hankerings even in his own party.

    It seems and as verified by Martin, Stephen and Sean this is as to how it has turned out.
    People are more attached to peace, attached to a peaceful environment to raise their children and to get on with life as best they can. The vast majority of the population north and south are more attached to this than any republican ideology.

    The good guys who recognised this, that equality of esteem was what was needed and that Unionist ought not be coerced against their will into all-Ireland state won the day.

  4. Of course no one wants a return to bloodshed but as I said originally the abandonment of the armed struggle was a double-edged sword. We now have a generation that has grown up without violence. That's a good thing. What isn't good is that they are largely apolitical. They have no reason to get passionate about politics and that is where Sean's viable alternative strategy must come into play. I hope it becomes a reality.

  5. Good to hear your thoughts Martin, hope you remember the days when crossing the Finn brought us if nothing else, a sense of pride and defiance.

  6. and I was doing the backstroke...

  7. Jean Paul Sartre in some of his writings said that all life is characterised by frustration, loss and disappointment.

    I acknowledge and respect that a cohort of Irish republicans remain frustrated and disappointed, given that they experienced significant losses it is understandable; understandable given the outcome, understandable given the duration of the campaign and understandable given the sacrifices made.

    However ... if they allow these negative perceptions cloud over and exclusively dominate equally valid existential realities, realities of fulfilment, gains and satisfactions, which are being experienced by significant numbers in the population, if they relentlessly adhere to the negative, this republican cohort like Sartre only get half the picture.

    If the Societies only address half the story, they will need to proceed with care, for as in any form of navigation, if you fail to accurately appraise where you are at, you are very likely to arrive at an unplanned for destination. If in that process to a dubious destination they were to jeopardise the fragile peace, it would and should, I believe, be deemed reckless and unforgivable.

    As imperfect a solution as with which we have been gifted, it has in reality, as of this particular point in time, grudgingly but largely been accepted by a significant majority.

    Surely those who claim to be republican must recognise the will of the people as sovereign over any dogma or shibboleth.
    And likewise those who fail to acquiesce to the popular will of the people are not worthy to call themselves republican.

  8. Republican Socialist

    Yes in a time of war a sense of pride and defiance will keep you in good stead ... in a time of forging peace they're somewhat a liability.

    In the current reality humility and a more realistic acceptance of life on life's terms, including acceptance of all it's imperfections, will serve best.

    Implicit in Martin and other posters' comments is the adaptive nature of such shifts (even if somewhat decried by them).
    Time to make the switch lads.

  9. Henry, get off your high horse where you surmise quite a lot from my post, a post which was in reference to our youthful exploits, one of which being our rather naive attempts at poaching. Doing the backstroke whilst pulling a net over the Finn is not the wisest thing to do.

    As for pride and defiance, at the risk of you declaring I have PTSD for being unable to make 'the shift' I would contend that they are unfortunately part of my DNA and as much required today as in innocent days of youth. Eddie.

  10. Henry Joy
    You state “People are more attached to peace, attached to a peaceful environment to raise their children and to get on with life as best they can. The vast majority of the population north and south are more attached to this than any republican ideology.”
    I totally agree and, as a Republican, this was my original point. But I continued to say that the Republican community now must find a way forward to The Republic, a way to politicize the current generation in the absence of armed struggle.
    However I must take issue with your statement that “Unionists ought not be coerced against their will into all-Ireland state.” This would seem to give legitimacy to the artificial statelet that is“Northern Ireland.” Let’s make no bones about it this statelet was created purely and solely for the unionist minority in Ireland and we nationalists were coerced against our will into living as a ghetto-dwelling minority in a wee part of our wee island.

  11. Yes we have been coerced and ghettoised.
    I like you Martin have experienced Unionist domination.

    That's in the past. The degree the past impacts on current reality is dependent on the extent we cling to it.

    Time to move on less we condemn another generation of young nationalists to a futile ideological phase of struggle.