It's Time For A New Peace Deal ... With Public Support

If the Executive parties cannot reach agreement, the London and Dublin governments should seize the initiative and appeal to the electorate over the heads of the politicians, writes Michael H C McDowell in Washington, DC, writing for today's Belfast Telegraph. Michael H C McDowell, a former Northern Ireland journalist, is an international affairs consultant based in Washington, DC.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Prime Minister David Cameron and Taoiseach Enda Kenny
There is a possible solution to the political crisis at Stormont - but that solution requires imagination, energy and determination on the part of London, particularly, which pays the bills, and, secondarily, Dublin.
Northern Ireland's constitutional problems are not unique, in spite of the truly bizarre pride which many of our politicians take in rejecting suggestions from outside which might make the 1998 Good Friday Agreement work as it was originally intended to.

"That wouldn't work here ... you can't compare us with other places ... we need an Irish solution to an Irish problem ... we're not like anywhere else ... we've tried that before," are the pathetic bleatings of these political critics. And yet many of them have the cheek to travel around the world offering advice to other conflicted jurisdictions, boasting that our "model" should be replicated abroad.

Sadly, the current model is not successful. It might have been an initial success in 1998 and for a short period afterwards, but the Northern Ireland model is not fit-for-purpose any more.

Above all, the public must have confidence in the Executive and Assembly; it no longer has that confidence to any meaningful extent, as polls consistently show.
Calls for another quick fix - by resurrecting the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) in a "tougher" form - suggests a shifting of deckchairs on our political Titanic, unless, this time around, it leads to root-and-branch dismantling of the billions of pounds and euro in money-laundering, fuel-smuggling, racketeering, drug-running and criminal assets - and, of course, eliminating the killings and maimings on both sides of the border.
The public must be convinced that any "new" IMC has no hidden agenda and can unequivocally answer key questions - for example: "Is the IRA army council still operating, in any way?" And: "Are there still weapons being held by the IRA?"
If the answers to either or both those questions is "Yes," then Sinn Fein must lose its right to be in government with wholly democratic parties.
The man and woman in the street are already sceptical that this latest of so many rounds of talks will produce broad agreement among the DUP, Sinn Fein, Ulster Unionists, SDLP and Alliance.
Of course, it is worth having talks, but if they don't work, what is the Plan B of the two governments? Well, there isn't one.
A quick election is demanded by Sinn Fein, with their eyes on the southern election next year, but a Northern Ireland election would meet the definition of insanity - ie, repeating the same old exercise and expecting a different result. Instead, we would have the familiar political stalemate in the Executive and Assembly; indeed, it might be worse.
Direct rule from Westminster is favoured by others, but that takes away local decision-making and puts it in the hands of English ministers.
Joint-authority, with London and Dublin, puts a greener tinge on the body politic and infuriates unionists and, in any case, Dublin is just slowly emerging from a disastrous economic mess.
What would work instead? After 37 years in North America, seven of them in Canada, the rest in Boston, New York and Washington, I believe in taking calculated (I stress, calculated) risks and having that old American "can-do" attitude, thinking-out-of-the-box, and, yes, a "do-no-harm-either" approach.
Well, if the local parties cannot agree on a package which specifies an Executive formed by voluntary coalition, collective Cabinet responsibility on policies, forced resignations for misbehaviour or corruption, other reasonable accommodations, an official Opposition in the Assembly with powers to call and hold ministers to account, and mechanisms to achieve a political majority of elected representatives in both communities to pass community-sensitive legislation and other safeguards, then it is up to London and Dublin to pick up the ball which the feuding parties kicked out of the political pram.
Let the two governments put a take-it-or-leave-it package rejected by the warring politicians directly to the people of Northern Ireland in a referendum.
After all, it is more than 17 years since the Good Friday Agreement was supported by a majority in both communities in a high-turnout vote.
If the package is supported by the electorate, then London and Dublin can legitimately call a meaningful Northern Ireland Assembly election on the basis of that mandate from the people of the province expressed in the referendum. If it is rejected, then it's back to direct rule or something less than joint authority. Or, if a referendum is seen as too high-risk, then have London impose the package, with support, ideally, from Dublin and Washington.
Admittedly, in 1998, the majority unionist and nationalist parties campaigned for a "Yes," and it is possible the DUP and Sinn Fein could join in an unholy alliance for a "No." That's a call for the two governments to make.
A lesser risk would entail relatively minor reforms to strengthen the centre and weaken the two main sectarian parties, perhaps though a Northern Ireland-wide electoral "list" system of voting, as used in Scotland, which would enable the Ulster Unionists, SDLP and Alliance to get a stronger foothold in the institutions than the current STV system allows.
Surely, though, it is time for bolder actions? Now is the time to take risks for peace, in the spirit of 1998.
Again, an election now, or in a few weeks, will achieve nothing but further acrimony, and no doubt the turnout will reach an historic low.
The options I am suggesting will be resisted not only by the NI political parties (barring, possibly, Alliance and, at a long shot, the UUs and SDLP), but by the pusillanimous mandarins of the Northern Ireland Office, the mediocre Nervous Nellies of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and the sneaking-regarders of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs. These naysayers must be ignored.
Yes, there is a precedent: my IMC idea was championed by Tony Blair's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell. Number 10 overruled the NIO's opposition to it and Bertie Ahern and the Taoiseach's office chose to ignore the Department of Foreign Affairs' doubts. The IMC came into being because of strong political leadership by Blair and Ahern. They were the ultimate "deciders".
The people of Northern Ireland again and again have shown that they support power-sharing (including in the unionist community, please note) and such cross-community initiatives as integrated education and sharing of public facilities.
We have had much talk about "a shared future" but, many years on, no agreement on what that might mean. Can we seriously tackle sectarianism? Can we deal effectively with the horrors committed in the past?
And, lurking like a demon around the political corner, are the harsh penalties for not enacting welfare reform, which Sinn Fein reneged on months ago, with savage cuts in spending which would hurt the very poorest families in Northern Ireland. Like it or not, the Tories were elected with a majority and promised to cut welfare monies if elected.
Then there's the supposed panacea of corporation tax - huge cuts in social services might be needed to replace the $300m alleged "savings" on that triumph-of-hope-over-experience idea. David Cameron and Enda Kenny have a major opportunity to break the political logjam in the north and give the vast majority of people who support true power-sharing the kind of joined-up government which they voted for in the 1998 referendum - not the DUP-Sinn Fein cynical carving-up of power.
The men, women and, above all, the next generation of citizens of Northern Ireland deserve better of their politicians.
Just producing a new "improved" (?) IMC is not enough, and our 108 overpaid, over-expensed, do-nothing MLAs need to be pushed off the gravy train of the public trough if they cannot do their job, lead and reach an accord. Let London and Dublin seize the initiative if the northern parties will not agree.
And, finally, please keep the United States out of it all, except for backing a final package, and ignore Capitol Hill's undistinguished Amen Chorus for Sinn Fein. The ball must stay firmly in London's and Dublin's court, where it should be.
There is a possible solution.


  1. Yep... A new peace deal.
    Brits Out.

  2. I'm disappointed in your blatant sectarianism Ozzy. Where am I to go?

  3. Oh, dear, Ozzy is that the best you can do? So how will that achieve consent in both communities?

  4. Cue, Walter what is it you both found offensive about Ozzy saying "Brits out". Do you both honestly believe that 10 Downing Street or the German-Romanian family who live in Buck House give two fiddlers fcuk about the PUL community anymore than they care about the CNR community.

    Truth is they don't... anymore than they care about the working class in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle or Dorset......

  5. Sorry Cue.
    Brits Out is British Government.
    You are free to remain.
    Nobody I know is interested in "ethnic cleansing" you or anybody else.
    No one cares were you go to mass..or don't go.
    The worst you'll ever get is if you don't like a UI..You're free to leave.
    The 6 million Irish in Uk are there under the same deal.It is what it is.
    It's called assimilation also the reasons for partition are over.A recognition of this would be welcome.
    83% of Ireland is the free state.
    Of the other 17% at least half of that is owned by Nationalists. It's quite clear where the end result is. Only thing open for debate is timing, and the model (federal/non federal/other) and details like that.
    How did the Free State get consent from Dun Laoighre????
    Unionists will make the most of it...and the generation that come after it..Will see the sunny side. It's time to think of the future and not of ourselves and our "self entitlement".
    We have already granted the next generation a whopping debt...The least we can do is end the partition nonsense..And leave the next generation at least one problem fixed.
    If not now..When??? If not us? then Who??
    Fair is fair.

  6. If there is to be true peace it must include dissident
    republicans an unionists. As you said the political will
    has to be there.with unionists feeling left behind in
    this process and anti agreement republicans needing
    a new way forward, now is the time to talk to all groups
    Otherwise there will be another crisis in a few months
    and with that the publics confidence in the agreement,
    Politicians and politics in general will be filled by the
    political extremes.

  7. Partition has clearly failed and is unworkable. Due to its sectarian foundation, which it cannot escape, no matter what formula is brought to pass it is doomed to end in crisis regardless. The six-county statelet is without the legitimacy required to make such an entity workable. In essence you have half the population just biding their time to put an end to it and nothing can be done to change this. That brings its own crisis of legitimacy, never mind the origins of the statelet itself or its historical record of sectarian abuse and discrimination. Ireland is Ireland and people are not going to start pretending otherwise to appease a small minority. Protections for minorities of course but appeasement? This needs to end. Some may be prepared to accept the northern statelet as an interim but unionism wants this to be permanent. Therein lies continuing conflict, even though it may not manifest in violence. It brings its own dynamic, in turn ensuring this place can simply never work. Irish unionists like 'Cue Bono' may be happy to pass this on to future generations but the rest of us are looking to set out a viable future for all - and as Ozzy suggests, the best way to secure this is in a sovereign all-Ireland republic. We can work out the means to protect and preserve the identity of the Irish unionist community, it's only right we do, but the Union and British involvement in the affairs of Ireland must be brought to an end if we are serious about peace and progress. To continue on with failed partition is simply to repeat the mistakes of the past and surely we all deserve better

  8. Sean
    Half the population bidding their time? I don't think so. There is no desire among the CNR community to stop sucking the Brit tit and no desire in the 26 to inherit our problems. And therein lies your dilemma.

  9. Sean,

    republicanism is the demonstrably failed political entity, not partition. It would be reassuring for this not to be so but the evidence is in front of our eyes. Partition continues to exist, is under absolutely no threat whereas republicanism has imploded. That partition functions in its own dysfunctional way is not a malfunction of partition but of its modus operandi.

    The six county statelet has been legitimised both North and South and is premised on the consent principle. What has been delegitimised is the perspective that the North should be compelled into a unitary state without the consent of a majority there.

    The statement that Ireland is Ireland will mean nothing to people you wish to persuade of your argument. It is on a par with arguing that humans did not evolve but were an act of special creation. Too many people think otherwise and will not be persuaded. Nations are not timeless entities, they evolved into being and will as surely evolve into something else over the course of time. Ireland as a geographic unit offers no compelling reason as to why it must necessarily follow that Ireland must also be a political unit. We as republicans believe it should but it is a belief not shared by a lot of others.

    I think it is wrong to contend that half the northern population is just biding its time to unite the country. This even ignores what republicans have long thought of the composition of northern nationalism. Even today it can be wagered that a lot of people vote SF not because the party will deliver a united Ireland but because it might deliver a better deal within a British state run North.

    I think strategy rather than shibboleth is needed for republicanism to make any advances: a total rethink. Why not press for Tyrone to secede from the UK state? The principle of consent has already been established so exploit it. Unionism does not have much of an argument against the right to secede. Yeah, you will be accused of repartition by the purists, but you could at least argue against static purism that you are incrementally shrinking the geographical size of the UK state, fragmenting its territorially, and facilitating the wish of Irish nationalists to be allowed to live under an Irish government without having to up stumps and physically go.

    Do what we have always done and we get what we have always got.

  10. Do what we have always done and we get what we have always got.

    But in this age, there are no ideologues left in Parliament. The North is a cross no MP would bear.

  11. It's hard to figure out exactly what you're saying with that Anthony, are you saying that partition is not a failure by dent of the fact it continues to exist? That the presence of an entire section of the community within the Northern entity who seek its end does not equate to a crisis of legitimacy? Only in a country whose politics are as warped as here in Ireland would the like of that float. Peter, if you're so confident in what you say then let's put it to the test in an all-Ireland referendum

  12. Sean,

    it succeeds because it has overcome every attempt, armed and otherwise, to supplant it. It has many failings but none which are systemic. And in the absence of those systemic failings it is hard to argue it has failed. There is no crisis of legitimacy. What crises exist are usually manufactured by the political class to further its own end. An entire section of the community might prefer it to end but they do not actively seek it to end. The vast bulk of those who vote do so for partitionist parties, if we define a partitionist party as we always did - one that supports the basis of partition - unity only by consent. And it just doesn't float here - it floats as part of an international agreement. These are some of the salient realities you must confront if you are to impact at all. The challenge is not to end up like the irrelevant left predicting the end of capitalism as imminent because capitalism has failed. Failure is often used in an ideological sense rather than an empirical one. I have to confess the more I listen to the arguments of current republicanism the less I am persuaded by it.

  13. Anthony, do you now accept the legitimacy of consent?

  14. Sean
    "Peter, if you're so confident in what you say then let's put it to the test in an all-Ireland referendum."
    No, we don't have to. Partition is writ into international law. It is encumbant on you to show that a majority of people in the 6 counties want a 32 county republic and you can't. I think you would even struggle to show that a majority want it in the 26. Your brand of traditional militant republicanism is a beaten docket and has been for years. As AM more eloquently argues, if you want change you are going to have think of something completely new.

  15. Sean,

    legitimacy is in the eye of the beholder. So while I disagree with it, an array of factors beyond my control have legitimised it. My conscientious objection to it does not detract from the legitimacy the vast majority of Irish people have conferred on it. Same as I have to recognise the legitimacy of religions even though they are based on a bunkum belief about the existence of god.

  16. In your next comment Mackers explain to me how the 'vast majority of Irish people' have 'conferred legitimacy' on the principle of consent. Says who? I honestly struggle to comprehend your passing off such propaganda as though it were a fact

  17. Sean,

    because the vast majority of Irish people give their allegiance to parties who support the existence of the NI state until such times as a majority in the North decide otherwise and withhold their support from parties/entities who oppose that position; because the dual referendum in 1998 even by taking place as a dual referendum (plus the outcome) was a solid endorsement of the status quo. As for passing off propaganda as fact - how about half the North just waiting to get rid of partition causing a crisis of legitimacy. That is fantasy stuff.

    One of the reasons for opposition (at least on my part to the GFA) was that it would confer legitimacy on partition. I think this is one reason we see so many of today's republicans arguing that the GFA did not confer legitimacy on partition. They do not want to acknowledge their own role in selling the GFA as that very thing to republicanism.

    You have every opportunity to persuade people but if you can't persuade republicans how are you going to persuade those outside the republican ensemble?

  18. Tony a chara, the case can just as easily be made that this 'vast majority of people' you reference give their support to parties who endorse the reunification of Ireland, albeit allowing for a vote in the north to take precedent over constitutional movement through other means of change. Not sure where you're going with this at all or to what end. To describe it a fantasy that those same voters would prefer a United Ireland over partition is, well, fantasy itself. And that is what you seem to be saying, regardless of the principle of consent and its impact on the legitimacy of the six-county entity. Like yourself I opposed that same principle of consent and the Good Friday Agreement which endorsed it, voting against it at the time, arguing internally against it from the day and hour we were shown the document with some, yes, who have since come to recognise that I was in fact right, and leaving the movement shortly afterwards, when yourself and others were being subjected to intimidation - moreso for that reason than over the Agreement in fairness (I was asked and in turn was prepared to let the leadership strategy run its course but could not ignore the murdering and harassment of other republicans). You say I have to convince republicans but I don't, the task is to convince the people of Ireland - which is all I hope to do. Regardless of all that, the idea that the Agreement did not impact on the legitimacy of the northern statelet is of course ridiculous, of course it did and of course it offered it a legitimacy heretofore lacking. And we need to acknowledge that. I DO acknowledge that don't worry. But it does not make partition itself legitimate and neither does it resolve the crisis of legitimacy inherent to partition - Jesus man you're starting to sound like Martin Mansergh. To begin with people weren't asked to vote on partition. They weren't even asked to vote on the Good Friday Agreement. You can say, 'ah but they instinctively knew', but it can as easily be said they were instinctively voting for peace. Given that we don't actually know, with both territories voting on different matters and neither on the actual Good Friday Agreement itself (moreso the southern electorate), then we can't assume anything - we have no right to. Either way, it does not wipe away the historical record or mean the existing situation is something other than a failed arrangement. No crisis of legitimacy? We'll see what the turnout is in the next election - if they get that far

  19. Sean,

    Depending on how the question was framed there's little doubt that a sizable majority's preference would reflect that they still aspire to a united Ireland. However its now beyond doubt also that a majority wouldn't want any truck with any plan, even an aspirational one, that seeks to pursue such a course without the consent of a majority within the northern state.

    Your insistence that we adhere to the vision of the 1916 Proclamation is as absurd, bizarre and futile as that of insisting that Roman Catholics adhere to the doctrine of 'Humanae Vitae'. There are fundamental Catholics who shun artificial methods of contraception and adhere to that doctrine. I can allow their right to make that choice .... and of course there are a far greater percentage of Catholics who don't adhere to that doctrine. I can respect that choice too.

    However if the fundamentalists were to invest their energies in persuading those with a more liberal stance to adhere rigidly to the doctrine I'd have to wonder as to what chance of success such a campaign would have and I'd have to wonder as to why bother. Such behaviour, in my opinion, is invariably grounded in resentfulness ... an inability to accept life on life's terms. Thankfully over time such inabilities to adapt to changes in context or changes in the environment are ultimately regressive. As Dr Big Mackers predicted ... Irish Republicans are a dying breed. Face up to it Sean the Societies aren't going to save the Irish Republican species ... way too late ... we crossed that tipping point a long way back.

    If you (metaphorically) wish to campaign for the exclusivity of the rhythm method so be it but please allow for and respect other's differing planning choices.

  20. Honestly, I don't know where to go with that nonsense above but someone should hit that fool a good slap first opportunity presenting. For the record, I never realised the vision for Ireland contained in the 1916 Proclamation was absurd, bizarre or futile - but if you say it well sure it must be true oh learned one. Maybe some day if you put your mind to it - when you get your tongue out of Anthony's hole that is - you can be a 'big doctor' too (though it might be interesting to see does he second that horseshit). You're yearning or lacking for something, that's for sure. Maybe that's it. The bottom line, at least as far as I'm concerned, is nothing is 'beyond doubt' until we ask the people, no-one has the right to assert that, neither republicans or anyone else. But what is beyond doubt is that the Irish people already established the Irish Republic, through this same popular will you're all so fond of quoting. What happened there eh? It was usurped at the point of the British gun. Perfectly legitimate though, of course. Enda Kenny was in his home constituency recently for a publicity stunt where the children in a local Primary School were given copies of the Proclamation (that absurd, bizarre document mentioned above) and asked what they thought of it. Dear old Enda got a bit of a shock. I suggest those who say there is no appetite for republicanism or the Proclamation go find out what those children said when interviewed before making further assertions about what the people of this country want. Quite obviously you're in no position to do so and are yourselves trapped by your own dogma at this point, incapable of recognising the changing currents in what is a changing society - north and south

  21. Anthony a chara, from what you've written, both here and elsewhere on the site this morning, it seems you're making the absurd claim partition is a success. How? You're clutching at straws with that one and why you would assume such a position is frankly incomprehensible. By all means forward this record of success, but before doing so let's get something straight. That something exists does not make it a success, it just means it successfully exists. Costa Rica exists, would we describe that territory as a success, as anything other than a total and abject failure? Yes, that partition continues to exist has its own implications, which strategically should not be ignored, but to say partition has not failed and to passionately argue this point, as you've done with both myself here and Niall on the McDowell thread? That's mind-boggling. Anyway, all that said, let's enjoy the weekend, have a good one a chairde (yeah you too 'Henry Joy' - you can't be all that bad). Slan

  22. Sean,

    how is anybody reading that rant against Henry Joy going to be persuaded in the slightest that you have an argument worth listening to? You cannot escape your public profile as a PRO for the 1916 Societies and such vitriol does not go unnoticed. His comments while disagreeable to you did not merit such a response. As Mick Fealty often says, play the ball not the man. You are under no obligation to debate with him but it is best that the insults are set aside. Making your adversary appear reasonable and yourself irrational is hardly what you intended but it seems to me all you have achieved.

    I have argued the point in passing, much as I might in the pub. Passionately is the last thing I would use to describe it. The passion it seems has come in your own comments to Henry Joy.

  23. So now we have to moderate our commentary for fear of who may be looking in or noticing. Take what you will from what I say and the same goes for anyone else, I'm not a politician and don't ever intend to be so. I'm just an ordinary man and the day I'm not free to be so will bring with it its own reaction. That aside, you've been arguing partition does not equate to a failure and seem at pains to suggest as much. How tell us is that so, given the state of society in the North, with sectarianism more rampant than ever and a complete shambles for a political system?

  24. Sean,

    the case can just as easily be made that this 'vast majority of people' you reference give their support to parties who endorse the reunification of Ireland, albeit allowing for a vote in the north to take precedent over constitutional movement through other means of change.

    Which is precisely the point: that is what legitimises partition, not that people might like it or prefer it over another option, but that they prepared to endorse it and support the partition principle which is unity only be consent with a majority in the North.

    To describe it a fantasy that those same voters would prefer a United Ireland over partition is, well, fantasy itself.

    An Aunt Sally. I have heard nobody argue that Irish unity is not a preference of people on the island. Seems axiomatic that it is. The argument you make is that half the population of the North is just waiting on the opportunity to collapse the Norther State. That is fantasy.

    How are you going to convince the people of Ireland when you can’t convince republicans?

    I don’t think you understand what legitimacy is. Political entities legitimise themselves not by doing the just thing but doing the popular thing. Something does not have to be right to have legitimacy. This is what processes of legimization are about.

    In there somewhere you seem to be moving to a position that the NI state/partition has been legitimised by the GFA but holding out that partition is still not legitimate. It hardly matters whether you think it legitimate or not – what does matter is the realpolitik of it being legitimised.

    People at the time of the GFA voted for what was put in front of them – a clear partitionist arrangement, nothing else. Nobody disputes that they voted for peace. They were quite entitled to. But to say they were not asked to vote for partition is flannel. The GFA offered no political alternative to partition: it was rooted in partition. Both referenda were staged to allow only a partitionist arrangement to work. To pretend it was for something else is just that – a pretence.

  25. Sean,

    we moderate our commentary so that our opponent is prevented from emerging as the clear winner because we couldn't contain our bile. We moderate our commentary out of basic human civility otherwise we would be calling each other cunts all day; we moderate our commentary because we want to make points rather than score them; we moderate our commentary because our audience sees in our bile a failure to address the issue so we evade it by addressing the opponent. Everybody in the world moderates their commentary. It is not that radical: read Kenan Malik, a robust advocate of unbridled free speech on it.

    Self-censorship is, of course, something that we all practice to a degree. Most of us do not simply blurt out every thought that comes into our heads, and most of seek to keep debates civil and polite. Without constant editing, neither coherent thought nor rational conversation would be possible.

    The sectarianism in the North is part of the structure: the GFA institutionalised it and did not transcend it. Its management rather than its eradication was the objective. It has succeeded quite well in managing it and reproducing the divisions that allows the political class to continue much as it is. If, as I believe, in every capitalist society the role of the state is to disunite the dominated bloc; unite the dominant bloc; mediate the relationships between the two, then apply that to the North and you can claim that they have succeeded quite well.

    Opponents of any ensemble they oppose invariably tell you it has failed. Doesn't mean we have to listen to it or believe it.

  26. So you're sticking with the 'partition hasn't failed' line. I suppose you're free to do so. You said I don't understand what legitimacy means when it comes to politics but I doubt it's yourself who doesn't understand it, not when you deny that the presence of a major bloc within the state, with little to no affinity to the state, who desire instead to be part of an all-Ireland state, does not present a challenge to the legitimacy of that same state. You have chosen a very narrow definition of political legitimacy but that does not mean you are correct. On another matter, I read with incredulity your assertion above that no-one here has argued Irish Unity is not the preference of the people on the island. Maybe I dreamt it all up but I'd venture if you read the comments, which are by no means exclusive to this thread, you'll find this simply is not true

  27. Séan

    Tá súil agam go mbéidh deireadh seachtaine maith agat freisin.

    Couple of clarifications before I go though.

    Firstly I never said "the vision for Ireland contained in the 1916 Proclamation was absurd, bizarre or futile". Read my comment again and hopefully you'll see what I wrote ... rather than what you thought I wrote.

    As the 'Humanae Vitae' metaphor suggests your position is theologically sound but as the metaphor also suggests in practice and in truth almost nobody save yourself and your comrades sees it as anything other than an aspirtional and revolutionary call to arms of another time ... what you seem to be missing is that north and south the rest of us are partitionists ... reluctant partitionists maybe but partitionists none the less. You're blind to the futility of your cause. Your adherence to the dogma despite the de facto rejection by a majority is the absurdity and the bizarreness I allude to, not the aspirational rhetoric of the document itself.

    And secondly, that AM and I may be of a similar mind on this at this point in time is neither here nor there. I don't know Anthony except through these pages but I'd guess he and I are similar in that both of us aspire to be independent thinkers ... and as such neither seek nor need approval for our positions from each other or anyone else.

    Finally, I take it from my inclusion in your week-end good wishes that your evocation for violence against me is now withdrawn! (Lol).

  28. Given that there is no reason to think otherwise and the counter seems to be repetition of the old shibboleths with nothing to back them up, I'll stick with my judgement until it fails me.

    We will let others decide who has the best understanding of legitimacy. We have both had our say.

    The state is legitimized not by people's preference but by their actions/participation/ or alternatively delegitimised by their opposition. There is very little opposition in the North to the state per se. Opposition where it manifests itself is to how the state behaves not that it exists.

    Now that your credulity has been aroused it should be a relatively easy matter for you to point to somebody here arguing against you that there is no preference for unity amongst a majority of people on the island.

  29. Well your mate Peter has said it in this thread alone but correct me if I'm wrong here, you're now saying not only that partition hasn't failed but that the Northern state is now legitimate?

  30. 'Henry Joy', we'll call it a weekend truce. The goons have been called off, for now...

  31. Sean,

    the most your friend Peter said was that you would struggle to show that a majority in the South want unity. Ask him - I doubt very much he would say they do not prefer it.

    Yes, the Northern state is legitimate given that it has been legitimised by the bulk of the country. The strategic challenge facing republicans is to delegitimise it. But if they can't even see the problem ....

  32. The Northern state is not legitimate Anthony. It is maintained through suppression of what you readily admit is the will of the people - which is for Irish Unity. Essentially we are talking about force. How can we describe that as legitimate (and that's without entertaining a conversation on both the origins of partition and the violent history of the entity it spawned) or what understanding of legitimacy ignores such a fundamental reality? The Agreement itself admits this was and is the will in Ireland but inserted the Unionist Veto to undermine the same. GFA and the state itself may be doing a reasonable job of increasing its legitimacy - and that is the process you describe - which is ongoing and with which I'm not arguing - but that is by no means a done deal or the complete picture. Where does the PSNI fit into your newfound opinion on the Six Counties, surely then as the legal police force of your legitimate state it too has the same legitimacy extended to it? MI5? That you argue such matters have no bearing on the legitimacy of the state is simply incredible and results from what is a narrow description of political legitimacy. Is the Good Friday Agreement a powerful bulwark impacting on the strategic abilities of republicanism? Of course. Do we need to account for it in our thinking? Absolutely. Does that mean we ignore history and recognise the legitimacy of the British occupied state in the North, its institutions and organs? Maybe for you but the rest of us are not obliged to do likewise - no matter what synergy exists between the mindset of yourself and the boul' Henry Joy here. It doesn't make you's right. You are basically saying the Irish people no longer have the right to self-determination, because of a contrived agreement and a contrived voting arrangement put in place, partly by traitors but mostly by Britain, to empower it. If this is the case then what were you doing engaged in armed struggle, given that the people of Ireland - led by sell out traitors long before this current batch - reached the same conclusion generations ago (if your logic is to be believed)? God only knows. Basically what you're now saying is that the entire Provisional war effort was without legitimacy. That is the logic and totality of your position

  33. Nothing there Sean that stirs my interest. Just a rehash of the same. If you say something novel or persuasive I'll respond.

  34. It is the logic and totality of your position

  35. Sean
    The one with the totality of position is yerself. What you can't seem to grasp, to the exasperation of some of us, is that the vast majority of people on this island voted for the GFA and thus accepted consent. If you want a 32 county Ireland you will have to do it through the process of 2 referendums or by armed insurrection, and you have no chance of success in either at this moment. OIOV just doesn't have legitimacy because you have neither power nor mandate.

    You say the north is a failed state. Maybe people feel like that in your village/town or circle of friends but if you drive around this province you will see life going on as before. People working, raising families and generally getting on with life. Very few people share or care about your desire for radical change.

  36. Peter a chara, I wouldn't necessarily disagree with the most of that. I'm at a football match here in Healy Park as we speak, Dromore are getting spanked by Killyclogher, life most certainly is going on regardless of arguments on here or whatever traction OIOV may or not be garnering at this moment in time. But I simply refuse to give up and have no intention of doing so. Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew were not afforded that opportunity, to just give up, and we will remember those lads, as others like them, in a few weeks time in the hills and homes of Tyrone. So regardless of the veracity of your argument or those of the other detractors on here, regardless of whether republicans are a 'dying breed' or not, in these areas we will not just pack up and forget about it. We will put in place the work to educate and empower a new generation of Irish republicans and no one will convince us otherwise, dismiss me as an ideologue or whatever. It's not about ideology, it's the difference in right and wrong. Those men left a legacy and we owe it them to press on regardless. For me it's really as simple as that

  37. Peter,

    unionism cannot feel seriously challenged by the republican argument and in fact must draw great solace from it. There is no threat to partition into perpetuity as Tom King once termed it: yet many nationalists see little diminution in unionist hostility and resentment. Which seems to suggest an innate sectarianism as distinct from sectarianism as a strategy. A parallel would be Gerry Kelly using sectarianism as a strategy without being actually sectarian in sentiment if my assessment of him is accurate. Do you think that innate sectarianism is a factor?

  38. Fair enough Sean. So long as no more Ulstermen end up in their graves over this shit, then tear away. No-one is asking you to give up your dream.
    BTW I think you were a little unfair to AM. He doesn't need me to defend him but I don't think you understood exactly what he was trying to say. Read his posts again.
    Enjoy your weekend.

  39. Sean
    Failed state? Apparently Omagh is the happiest place in the UK!!

    Yes unionists do take solace from republicanism. It was pointed out to me years ago that as long as republicans demanded a UI it was dividing rather than uniting Ireland. I do believe there is an innate sectarianism within the DUP and sections of loyalism, always was always will be, I guess. Apparently there is a section of the DUP opposed to Arlene Foster getting the leadership because she is CofI ffs! I think some of them feel that continued division lessens the chance of a UI. I take the NI21 (remember them!) line that there are significant numbers of catholics who are "pro-union" but not "unionist" and that they are the people that will keep the union intact.

  40. Peter,

    I have long since come to the conclusion that a United Ireland is not on the horizon. I won't see it. My children won't see it. Adams is talking about a united Ireland but not of the traditional type - which is Sinntology talk for one where partition continues to exist and the British still rule ... but it is still a united Ireland if you are creative and imaginative enough to buy the bollix.

    But even if there was no 26 counties to unite with (say it disappeared into the sea) that sectarianism would still exist because it is so innate. So I am not sure that the demand for a united Ireland feeds into it or at least I don't feel it does to any great extent.

    While the IRA's failed campaign obviously firmed up the unionist will I do not feel that it made unionism any more opposed to a united Ireland. I think there is a dynamic and culture within unionism that renders it totally hostile to a united Ireland.

    Many years ago Professor John Whyte made the observation that the unionist opposition to a united Ireland was much greater than the nationalist opposition to partition - that being so there was only ever going to be one outcome given that push/pull relation combined with the balance of political forces.

    While I think much can be said in mitigation on behalf of the IRA campaign, despite the war crimes it perpetrated and the civilian casualties it generated, it was a war that should never have been fought at least in terms of unifying Ireland. Totally unwinnable as well as being wholly contemptuous of the Irish people. We basically told the Irish people they could be free from only what we said they could be free from. While insisting on the right of the Irish people to be free we denied it any right to be free from our use of armed force. As a response against British state terror and repression, rather than an ideological pursuit of a united Ireland, a much more robust defence of the IRA campaign can be mounted.

  41. Peter, the only totality in my position is that the Irish people have the right to self-determination - as they do. This is denied them, not due to a legitimate political argument - that partition is somehow just - but through the power of the British gun, which time and again, mixing coercion in turn with compromise, has imposed its own contrived arrangements, first with the Treaty, then with the Agreement, in order to prop up their position in Ireland. The sequence has been the same throughout: the use of superior force to refuse the right to self-determination, followed in turn by agreement through trickery with what section of republicanism they could shape to accept defeat and settle up. That is the argument of force. It is force which compels these arrangements and not their legitimacy. Absent that force, the Irish Republic would long since have been established, there would be no Treaty, no Agreement, no principle of consent. This notion of consent itself violates the right to Irish self-determination. It emerged from a non-democratic process beginning with partition and ending in a contrived talks process which guaranteed partition and excluded the right to self-determination. Self-determination has been stripped away, not through a democratic exercise but through the illegitimate use of force. That some are prepared to countenance attaching legitimacy to this process I cannot help, all I can do is try and make the counter argument. That I don't excel at doing so is something I can only try to improve on, which is why I don't mind having these discussions, to see if there's anything can be learned. Enjoy the weekend both of ye's

  42. AM
    Yes, I agree the PIRA campaign was a disaster for those wanting a UI. It completely poisoned the well and made even liberal unionists totally opposed to it. As Seamus Mallon said, he will never see a UI and for that he blames the Provos. When Sean says that half the population of the north are waiting for a UI he makes a big mistake. North Down is 90% prod that means there are roughly 10,000 catholics. How many of those are republican? How many feel discriminated against? Very few, many are pro-union. Then we have a sizeable section of unionism who hate anything Irish or Catholic and even liberals like me who are opposed to any constitutional change. Many in the 26 are happy to see the monkeys locked into their 6 county cage. I don't feel the union is under any pressure. I am hopeful that in the future it won't matter so much. Religion is dying and culture is globalising. Most people look at the bigotry on show at 11th night bonfires or the masked men stomping down the road in Derry with embarrassment, the dying legacy of the Troubles.

    On your pet subject of trying to get a county or 2 to cede from the union, I take it you would need a referendum in the 26 first. How do you think that would go?

  43. Peter,

    at a guess I think they would go for it. They would probably see it as ~ if six counties can have it then so too should one. If they did not opt for it they would stand accused of denying their fellow nationalists the chance to peacefully become part of the Irish state. The unionists might have considerable difficulty with it.

    The union is absolutely safe and has been for a time. It wasn't even under threat during the Wilson era despite the noises emitting from Wilson and a couple surrounding him. There was no policy backing for unity.

    Seamus Mallon can't blame the Provos and sound plausible. He was never going to see a united Ireland anyway, with or without the Provos.

    As for the current violent campaigns - rain dances. OIOV is better because it avoids the futility of violence but in terms of being a success, might as well sacrifice goats to some imaginary god. Eirigi and IRSP type socialism - no constituency open to those type of ideas.