My purpose in the first section below is to explore the alarming premises and disturbing implications of some of James Dingley’s recent work. In the second and final section, I examine the problematic views of John Wilson Foster. Throughout the paper, I relate what these authors say to the developing debate about the future of the north involving civic nationalism, civic unionism and others.
James Dingley is a political sociologist and prominent unionist who is Chair of the Francis Hutcheson Institute, a Belfast-based think tank providing policy advice on conflict situations and related matters. He has taught at the University of Ulster and Queen’s University, Belfast, and has written extensively about contemporary conflicts, including the Irish one.
When I first came across Dingley’s work, I quickly determined it was so preposterous that I would not waste my time reading much more of it. I’ve revised my position, for a number of reasons.
First, I’m reminded every day of the damaging consequences of the politically absurd, fuelled by noxious fantasies and intolerant doctrines. I’m under no illusions that simply pointing out the absurdity of Dingley’s work will temper the deleterious impact it might have on those who are receptive to its “logic”. The absurd in politics seems much too resilient for any lofty expectations of its weakening. But I think I should try and I should hope. And perhaps I can alert others to the ludicrous but divisive nature of Dingley’s views.
Second, Dingley has been in the news lately. He was one of three speakers who hosted a series of talks in Belfast in November on “Ulster, America and the Enlightenment.” [see reference 15 below] It might then be an opportune time to look more closely at his thought and how he applies it to contemporary northern politics.
Third, now that the public discussion of alternative northern futures is starting to be fully joined, it might also be an appropriate time to reflect on Dingley’s place in the distribution of opinion within unionism generally. In February 2018, 105 civic unionists and others signed a statement issuing “A Positive Challenge to Northern Nationalists.” The statement was in response to civic nationalism’s open letters to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar urging him to protect the rights of Irish citizens in the north, help in the struggle against Brexit, and ensure that Britain lives up to its peace-process commitments. [16, 17, 20]
If we’re about to enter a phase of intensive cross-community discussions, we should recognize that unionism is a large tent encompassing commitments to a diverse array of values and views. One purpose of the February statement was to voice frustration that civic unionists and others “have been rendered invisible in many debates focused on rights and responsibilities.” The statement pointed out that its signatories too are centrally interested in equality, full citizenship, civil liberties, fairness, tolerance, and truth and reconciliation. [16, no page number (n.p.)]
Likewise, John Wilson Foster insists that unionist culture and politics are more expansive than some sections of the public allow. Unionist culture should not be reduced to bonfires; nor should unionist politics be reduced to DUP opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion reform.  And Peter Shirlow is exasperated that the fascination with regressive loyalism has hidden the contributions of “peace-process loyalism,” which removes contentious flags, stops riots, creates jobs, undermines racism and sectarianism, and promotes inclusion and compromise. [19, n.p.]
If we appreciate that there are many divergent values inside the unionist tent, we should also acknowledge who holds which values. James Dingley’s published work stands in stark contrast to the February statement’s recognition of the need for equality, full citizenship and tolerance. He seems anything but supportive of such laudable pursuits. Unfortunately, certain unionist commentators share parts of Dingley’s questionable approach, even though they may frame their work in less overtly absurd terms than he does. Their views, like his, are inimical to equitable dialogue across the constitutional and social divides, and they need to be challenged.
The Science of Good vs Evil
A key to understanding Dingley’s work is the rigid binary of good and evil that he sees in different forms of nationalism. What he calls unification nationalism is the epitome of good: it’s associated with the Enlightenment, science, reason, the peaceful integration of peoples, universal cooperation, dissenting religion, individual freedom, an open-ended society, and a concern with change and progress. Ethnic-separatist nationalism is the polar opposite. It’s the incarnation of evil, characterized by the Romantic reaction to the Enlightenment, an antipathy to science, a preference for emotion and passion over reason, an atavistic attachment to violence and blood sacrifice, social division, traditional religion, limitations on individual freedom in deference to group norms, resistance to change and modernity, and social stagnation [5, 6]
Dingley mechanically applies his analysis of nationalism to the situation in the north. For him, the north is “a fairly standard problem of nationalism and when seen in this light there is little to surprise anyone.” That is: “If one simply appreciates that Catholic Nationalism is about ethnic-separatism and all that went with it and the Ulster Unionists, as their name implies, were about remaining part of a unification state, one goes a long way to explaining the divisions in Ireland.” [5, at p. 265]
In a review of Dingley’s 2012 book on the IRA, Donnacha Ó Beacháin of Dublin City University rightfully draws attention to the provenance of Dingley’s interpretation:
There is nothing intrinsically new in this depiction. It simply echoes the caricature of the wild, unstable, emotional Irishman that justified repression and camouflaged a coercive strategy rooted in dispossession. Scientific racism flourished in Victorian Britain and was applied liberally to explain the impoverished rebellious people on the periphery of the United Kingdom … The stereotype is not new. The only surprising thing is that it resurfaces in a book published in the 21st century by a mainstream academic publisher. [18, at p. 72]
These contrasting views of Catholic Nationalism as evil and Ulster Unionism as good are the ugly sectarian premises of Dingley’s thought. And almost every major conclusion that he draws about the north follows automatically and axiomatically from these disquieting foundations.
While Dingley notes that Protestants in the north “are almost totally Unionist,” he recognizes that Catholic opinion on the constitutional question is more fragmented. He constructs what I would call a scale of deserving and undeserving Catholics based on their position on Irish reunification. The most deserving Catholics are those who are “avowedly Unionist,” followed by those who accept the Union for economic reasons, and then by those who are soft nationalists in that they accept Irish unity as a “nice idea” or aspiration that may not be realizable. Undeserving Catholics are republicans and hard nationalists who have “an absolute commitment to Irish unity”. [3, at p. 367] The unionist majority should work and cooperate only with deserving Catholics. [4, 5]
Since “Unionism actually represents something more progressive than Nationalism,” Dingley demands that nationalists change. [5, at p. 269] He simply does not accept nationalists as nationalists or republicans as republicans. He requires instead that these groups consent to the permanence of the northern state and the immutability of its boundaries, and that they drop their pursuit, even peaceful pursuit, of Irish unity. [3, 5] If nationalists and republicans refuse to alter their constitutional preference, there should be no power-sharing or parity of esteem. [4, 5]
Using the scientific precision that Dingley so admires, I can express his proposal succinctly as nationalism = 0.
The resolution of the northern problem, the key to peace and stability, is to remake nationalists and republicans as unionists, or to convert undeserving Catholics into deserving Catholics. As he chillingly puts it, the nationalist minority simply disappears as it is absorbed into the majority:
Genuine equality can then be asserted and the majority can be freed from the haunting spectre and threat of minority-induced instability whilst the minority ceases to be as it becomes part of an integrated polity. [4, at p. 18]
As nationalists transform themselves into unionists, the very notion of majority opinion on the constitutional issue is rendered meaningless, and the north becomes a single, cohesive community with a common narrative. [4,5]
Short of the emergence of that single community, Dingley’s analysis is tied to the unchanging nature of compound Manichean pairings: unionist-majority-good on the one side, nationalist-minority-evil on the other. But not every element in the pairings is unchangeable. Let’s accept for the sake of argument Dingley’s dogmatic assertion that unionism is as inextricably linked to good as nationalism is to evil. Even he must admit that the other element in the pairings, majority or minority status, is not fixed but variable. In fact, changing demographics and shifting allegiances introduce fatal complications to Dingley’s neat categorizations. What happens when unionists lose their majority status, either because no single group commands majority weight in a northern polity of multiple groupings (the current situation?), or because nationalists become the majority? These possibilities reveal the utter nonsense of Dingley’s position. Presumably, he is left arguing that the imperative remains essentially the same: good must still overcome evil and unionists must still absorb nationalists, whatever the relative size of groups. Not even a democratic majority will save nationalists; they are doomed in any case.
Many readers will no doubt see the dangerous politics of assimilation in such a proposal; they will also understand that the proposal cannot form the basis of serious and sincere cross-community talks about the way forward.
Too many unionists, even of liberal reputation, share parts of Dingley’s perspective on the unacceptable political core of nationalism and republicanism. They are not as extreme as Dingley in suggesting that the minority “ceases to be.” But they essentially propose that nationalists and republicans need to drop altogether their objective of a united Ireland, or relegate it to the immaterial realm of aspiration, or defer indefinitely (permanently) their advocacy of it. For many such unionists, Irish nationalism needs to be stripped of its political dimensions and confined to a cultural domain of “non-political Irishness.” In previous posts, I’ve noted that unionists who hold these kinds of views include Arthur Aughey, Richard English, Dennis Kennedy, Arthur Green, Patrick Roche and Brian Walker. [1, 2]
Keeping on the scientific path, I might characterize these positions as setting nationalism approximately equal to zero, or nationalism ≈ 0.
This view is more generous than that of Dingley. But perhaps I’m not being fair to these other unionist writers. They might accept that nationalism can be set at some value above zero, as long as it never reaches the same magnitude as unionism. So let me allow that 0 < nationalism < unionism.
In sum, these views are steeped in a fundamental inequality that ranks unionism above nationalism. And this inequality helps to explain the ongoing difficulty in realizing parity of esteem. Seeing nationalism as subordinate to unionism translates too easily into conferring lesser rights and opportunities on nationalists.
From Inequality, Failure
In the rest of my remarks, I’ll examine the position of John Wilson Foster, keeping in mind the unequal ordering of unionism and nationalism expressed in the formula immediately above. Foster has written extensively and recently on the kind of dialogue that needs to take place on the future of the north of Ireland. His comments deserve more attention than they’ve received.
Foster is a prolific literary critic and cultural historian who taught for many years at one of my former schools, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He is currently an honorary research professor at Queen’s University, Belfast.
The premise of Foster’s political interventions is the by now familiar one that unionism is superior to nationalism; his conclusion, that the Union must prevail. For him, the mere advocacy of Irish unity is tantamount to harassing or harrying unionists [10, 11, 14]. He suggests that if a united Ireland is to have any chance of social and political success, it would need fundamentally to remake itself “to resemble secular and Protestant-shaped Britain”. And he wonders why nationalists persist in such a pointless exercise. [9, n.p.]
Foster seems to have a thoroughgoing commitment to inequality. He denies to nationalists the very right he demands for himself as a unionist: “I am a unionist … because my culture demands a political framework for its expression at the very least as large as the United Kingdom.” [7, at p. 61] But what of the corresponding right of nationalists who demand political expression in the framework of a united Ireland? If these two sets of demands represent a constitutional impasse, why not reach for a democratic resolution? Why should any resolution have to satisfy Foster and his brand of unionism? It must be that way, I suppose, because unionism is superior to nationalism. And the circle is complete.
Generally speaking, Foster is more eloquent in his inegalitarianism than is Dingley. But sometimes Foster resorts to cheap and disparaging social stereotypes, using, for instance, subhuman imagery to refer to republicans as pack-leaders, meat-smellers and spiders. [8, 9, 10] As Ó Beacháin said of Dingley’s work, we’ve heard such insults before and know their origins and their purpose. They contribute nothing of substance to the debate; they do raise questions about the reasoning of those who employ them.
These are highly contentious, provocative claims that Foster seems to accept as articles of faith. Equally controversial is his radical geographic revisionism that places Ireland and Britain in completely different and noncontiguous bodies of water, with the latter apparently untouched by the swell of bigotry and intolerance, notwithstanding the “hostile environment” and the Windrush scandal, the little-Englander and anti-immigrant elements of the Brexit campaign . . .
One obvious effect of such claims is to whip up unionist fears and anxieties. On reading Foster, unionists may be left wondering how long Ireland will remain a mild backwater before joining the rising tide, or how many of them will feel compelled to leave Ireland and traverse the new sea to find shelter on the other island. Foster’s tactics here approach Dingley’s absurd dichotomy of good and evil.
Substantively, Foster’s frequent interventions in the ongoing discussion involve at least four main matters. First, his contributions are meant to furnish political arguments that unionists can put into play. His edited book on The Idea of the Union (1995):
… is intended … as a timely contribution to the debate now being conducted on the future of Northern Ireland. It is offered as a ready compendium of arguments against political positions, documents and agendas hostile to the maintenance of the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and as the basis of a pro-Union manifesto. [7, at p. 4]
Second, they involve the political mobilization of the unionist community, especially the upper and middle classes, whose disappearance from unionist politics has weakened the north’s place in the United Kingdom. Foster urges this moderate, liberal and silenced centre to re-enter politics to promote and reaffirm the Union. He also makes a special appeal to Catholics who don’t support a united Ireland to speak publicly about why they wish to remain in the UK. [8, 10, 13]
Foster’s attitude toward nationalist political mobilization is a little different While he kindly allows that nationalists are entitled to tell their story, he thinks they really shouldn’t tell it in a way that makes it a political demand.  Instead, they should “soft-pedal unification, cease clamouring and plotting for it, since not to demand unification is obviously the only chance for it some day to happen by consensus.” [7, at p. 63]. In other words, he believes “that the road to a united Ireland should not have a signpost and that who desire it should trust in cultural evolution and the fullness of time.” [10, n.p.]
There is a striking asymmetry in the language and substance of Foster’s argument that reveals his presupposition of unionist superiority and his fidelity to the inequality formula examined above. It also reveals his distance from the sentiments of the February statement. According to Foster, unionists “promote’ and “reaffirm” the Union; nationalists “clamour” and “plot” for unity. Unionists need to end their political absences and silences; nationalists need to take an extended leave of absence from politics and discover the virtue of silence. Unionists should step out and speak up; nationalists should step back and shut up.
Foster’s views on mobilization take us to the final main matter with which he’s concerned. He suggests explicit structures for inter-community dialogue. He is by no means alone in this enterprise. All sorts of proposals are in the air. Foster supports Liam Kennedy’s recommendation that Strand Three of the Good Friday Agreement (on east-west relations) be reinvigorated to examine the close cultural bonds and affinities between Britain and Ireland. [12, 13] He offers an alternative to Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly’s idea to convene a New Ireland Forum 2. Instead of discussing a united Ireland, as Daly would have it, Foster wants the Forum to explore “the intimate mutual relations between the Republic and the UK,” much as the renewed Strand Three discussions would do. [14, n.p.]
Foster’s most telling proposal, consistent with his interest in civil mobilization, is to resurrect the moribund Civic Forum provided for in the GFA. Foster’s Forum would require “a prior agreement by all involved that the forum is in sincere aid (at least for now) of a successful Northern Ireland.” He believes that “unless and until Northern Ireland can be made to work, and peacefully, there is no prospect of a united Ireland anytime soon that would not involve coercion and tumult.” [13, n.p.] Many people share his desire that the arrival of a united Ireland, should it come, be accomplished without social unrest. But we may not need to worry about any tumult accompanying arrival because the likely effect of his Forum proposal is to help prevent arrival in the first place.
Foster describes how his Forum would work:
… we vocally prioritise what we all share and try to achieve the highest common factor of our mutual interests. Only then can we agree to differ civilly on our divided aspirations, with the future open to persuasion and debate (without sound and fury) and possibly evolution to constitutional change through broad consensus. [13, n.p.]
There are at least two glaring problems with this structure. The first is the order in which topics are discussed at the Forum. The initial item on the agenda is to achieve the highest common factor of mutual interests between Ireland and Britain. It’s not hard to see that this agenda item really represents multiple, almost limitless, items for unionists eager to engage on such terms. And, for them, it entails a kind of discussion that is very nearly without end. It’s only when this potentially endless discussion actually ends that constitutional change can be addressed. In effect, Irish unity is pushed so far down the agenda that it’s highly unlikely it would be discussed at all.
Foster seems determined to ensure that any talks on the future of the north marginalize if not eliminate discussion of a united Ireland. All the bodies he endorses—Strand Three, New Ireland Forum 2 and Civic Forum—have mutual relations and cultural affinities between Ireland and Britain as their first (only) order of business. There is no seat at Foster’s exclusive table for nationalism’s interest in constitutional change.
The second problem with Foster’s Civic Forum is the decision rule. Even though the Forum is a consultative body that does not make final decisions, it still must decide what kind of advice to proffer to the northern Executive. Decision rules still matter. If the improbable were to happen at the Forum — that the constitutional issue reaches the stage of discussion and decision — Foster requires that agreement on the nature of any change be by broad consensus. Consensual decision-making may seem fine in theory but it has some serious drawbacks in practice.
Consensus works best for like-minded people who are predisposed to agree in any event. It may, for instance, work fine for the rarefied group of unionists Foster is trying to mobilize, made up of business leaders, solicitors, barristers, physicians, academics, and other highly educated or successful people. 
But if there is a real diversity of opinion, even a sharp polarization of views as there surely is on the constitution, the requirement of broad consensus breaks down. To require consensus in this situation is to hand out multiple vetoes over change. This arrangement would no doubt please those people who are content with the current constitution and desire no change. In fact, the most contented have the biggest incentive to invoke their veto over any Forum proposal to alter the constitution. As the prospect of significant change recedes or vanishes in the face of this formidable blocking power of veto, those counselling such change face two unpalatable choices. They can make huge concessions to get the Forum to agree on a recommendation that closely resembles existing constitutional arrangements; or they can refuse to compromise, in which case there is no agreement, and the Forum advises that there is no consensus to change existing constitutional arrangements. Either way, we’re left with something that is indistinguishable from existing constitutional arrangements. Who says broad consensus, says status quo.
Let me review Foster’s position on the debate about the future of the north: He provides unionists with pro-Union and anti-unity arguments.
➧ He urges unionists to speak up and mobilize politically
➧He proposes a structure for civic debate that will effectively shut out nationalists from engaging with and advancing their constitutional preference.
Foster has proposed a way forward that very probably guarantees failure for the constitutional outcome he opposes. If you’re determined to impede movement toward Irish unity, constraining nationalist advocacy, placing constitutional change at the end of a jam-packed agenda and requiring agreement by broad consensus is certainly the way to go.
In virtually every nook and cranny of Foster’s thought we encounter obstacles to Irish unity. How could a fair and meaningful dialogue on the road ahead ever conceivably emerge from such partisan, inequitable cant?
The February statement by civic unionists and others offers a possibility of inclusive and constructive discussions. As do the many cross-community exchanges that are taking place throughout the north in a context that doesn’t privilege or marginalize the concerns of any one side. The views of Dingley and Foster offer no such possibility.
 Burke, Mike, “A Hierarchy of Comfort: The Asymmetries of Richard English,” The Pensive Quill, 17 August 2015, http://thepensivequill.am/2015/08/a-hierarchy-of-comfort-asymmetries-of.html.
 Burke, Mike, “Deepening the Unionist Veto,” The Pensive Quill, 1 November 2017, http://thepensivequill.am/2017/11/deepening-unionist-veto.html.
 Dingley, James, “Peace in our Time? The Stresses and Strains on the Northern Ireland Peace Process,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 25:6 (November 2002): 357-382.
 Dingley, James, “Constructive Ambiguity and the Peace Process in Northern Ireland,” Low Intensity Conflict & Law Enforcement 13:1 (Spring 2005): 1-23.
 Dingley, James C, “The Road to Peace? Northern Ireland after the Belfast Agreement: Causes of Failure,” Democracy and Security 2:2 (December 2006): 263-286.
 Dingley, James, The IRA: The Irish Republican Army (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2012).
 Foster, John Wilson, ed. The Idea of the Union: Statements and Critiques in Support of the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Vancouver: Belcouver Press, 1995).
 Foster, John Wilson, “So, who will speak up for the Union?” Belfast Telegraph, 11 August 2017, obtained from the Factiva (Dow Jones) electronic database of newspaper articles.
 Foster, John Wilson, “Memo to Michelle O'Neill: we're all 'west Brits' now,” Belfast Telegraph, 5 October 2017, Factiva.
 Foster, John Wilson, "United Ireland campaign is based on a delusion: Unionists who voted for Remain were not voting for Irish unity in the event of Brexit," Irish Times, 19 March 2018, https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/united-ireland-campaign-is-based-on-a-delusion-1.3431695?mode=amp.
 Foster, John Wilson, “It is a mistake to confuse the essence of unionism with the practice of the DUP ... but the narrative of impending Irish unity just doesn't ring true,” Belfast Telegraph, 23 May 2018, Factiva.
 Foster, John Wilson, “The extent of Irish economic dependence on the UK is about to be exposed ... Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney have been playing very foolish hands,” Belfast Telegraph, 6 August 2018, Factiva.
 Foster, John Wilson, “Until the silenced centre, unionist and nationalist alike, can have a conversation about what sort of future they want, a border poll will remain the ultimate polarising catastrophe,” Belfast Telegraph, 17 September 2018, Factiva.
 Foster, John Wilson, “The United Irishmen, the famine and Easter 1916 provide the narrative of Irish history,” Belfast Telegraph, 24 September 2019, https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/professor-john-wilson-foster-the-united-irishmen-the-famine-and-easter-1916-provide-the-narrative-of-irish-history-38527303.html.
 McGonagle, Suzanne, “Historians to host series of talks at Ulster Historical Foundation event in Belfast,” Irish News, 21 November 2019, Factiva.
 “Nationalists leaders welcome letter from civic unionists,” Irish News, 28 February 2018, Factiva.
 Ó Beacháin, Donnacha, “From Guns to Government: The IRA in Context.” Studies of Transition States and Societies 6:1 (2014): 68-74.
 Shirlow, Peter, “Loyalists stop riots, create jobs, challenge racism and promote inclusion … so why do we only ever hear about regressive elements who want to turn the clock back?” Belfast Telegraph, 24 October 2019, Factiva.
 Wilson, James, “A Positive Challenge To Northern Ireland Nationalists,” The Pensive Quill, 27 February 2018, https://www.thepensivequill.com/2018/02/a-positive-challenge-to-northern.html.
If the author accurately portrays the views of the two scholars, they are very weird indeed. Something to do with the rarified air of the cloister, perhaps.ReplyDelete
We all need honest and clear discussions about NI's future. Let the Nationalist who will settle only for a UI say so. And let them spell out how they see it coming to pass and what sort of a UI it will be. Will it respect the NI British as both British and Irish, or will we be expected to become solely Irish? Etc.
Likewise the Unionist needs to speak of how he plans to entice the Nationalist to agree on a NI remaining in the UK. What respect will he show for the Irishness of the Nationalist? Etc.
They also need to say how they will respond to a UI that arrives against their wishes. Will they take up the role the disaffected Nationalist had after Partition? Will they relocate to British soil, as many of the southern Unionists did after Partition?
Brexit makes some of that difficult to call, until we see how Brexit works out for both parts of Ireland. It might have significant impetus either way.
Fine critique Mike.ReplyDelete
The 'supremacist' Unionist mindset tries to hold true but like the squirming worm they're eventually destined for the hook!
Lord Haw-Haw of North Down Unionism is hardly the speaker for the entire PUL community though.ReplyDelete
We all need honest and clear discussions about NI's future. Let the Nationalist who will settle only for a UI say so. And let them spell out how they see it coming to pass and what sort of a UI it will be.
The short version..No central banking system. The ten minute version, watch Jacques Fresco explain how a world without money can work. It means people changing their mindset from a monetary system to a resourced based system.
Likewise the Unionist needs to speak of how he plans to entice the Nationalist to agree on a NI remaining in the UK. What respect will he show for the Irishness of the Nationalist? Etc.
Unionism has never shown any respect for Irishness, especially in the six counties. Arlenes crocodile tears, Carson's covenant, the list is endless.
They also need to say how they will respond to a UI that arrives against their wishes. Will they take up the role the disaffected Nationalist had after Partition? Will they relocate to British soil, as many of the southern Unionists did after Partition?
Simply have two referendums..One on the island and one in the UK asking to end partition. I have no doubt in my mind 50+1 in both would vote to remove the border and unite the island. For talk sake I am right and everything was done democratically and by the book etc, who would the disaffected Unionist be angry with? The Unionist farmers who got porked by big house Unionism and RHI who never wanted off the EU gravy train in the first place, the British Government for signing off on the six counties from one union to another ( if Churchill is Bojo's hero then he would, given the chance, cut ties with the North in a heartbeat), maybe some farmer from the bog of Ireland who is supplying them pig meat and spuds for their Sunday dinner...I don't see they will target. As for people relocating, people and families do it every day of the week for various reasons...political, family, economic...
Interesting economic concept for your UI, frankie. I wonder how it will fly with the majority of the people. Very radical indeed!ReplyDelete
Yes, both governments in Ireland showed little respect for the minority loyalty. A pity, and dangerous for NI which had a large minority.
I'm not sure you understand how Unionists regard themselves. They do not look to the rest of the UK for validation of their identity. They stood against the government of the UK when it tried to place them in a Home Rule Ireland. So they would not be surprised if tomorrow the majority of the UK people voted them out of the Union. They would be disappointed, but not shaken.
Their anger/resentment would be towards those who would then take power in NI, the UI government and appratus. How that manifested would be uncertain.
Violence directed toward the police and politicians, as arose in post-Partition NI? Minority rights agitation? Political disengagement? Obstruction of economic progress?
Or voting for Irish parties most likely to damage the economy?
Or settling down to make the best of it, playing a part in the Irish State?
Or selling up and relocating to GB or elsewhere?
Expect any of that if no consent is sought from the PUL people.
Politics everywhere all the time makes strange bedfellows.
Ireland united will tend towards typical left-right spectrum politics.
All Civil War parties will go the way of the dinosaurs.
So, hats and banners will eventually change...
But people will remain the same:
Liberal to conservative and socialist to libertarian...
And honest to crooked.
As such they'll coalesce accordingly around common issues & concerns.
Dare I say it: Ireland will become more like a normal country.
Rather than the 2 abnormal Vichy states that it currently is.
For instance, right-wing anti-abortion Catholics will...
If they haven’t already…
Find common (but losing) cause with right-wing anti-abortion Unionists.
(Losing because no one really wants an unwanted pregnancy).
Nirvana no nay never but on the road there nevertheless.
No different really than Canada or New Zealand.
As an English friend of mine said: “England getting out of Ireland will end a terrible marriage but we'll become better friends.”
Pretty much like England getting out of many of its former colonies.
i.e. one step back to go two steps forward.
All of which means...
There really isn’t anything to fear for anyone in a United Ireland.
Where I'd vote for John Coulter over Bertie Ahern any day of the week.
That's a plausible forecast. If we could get past the initial resentment, normal politics could well emerge. As it could have in NI after Partition. But a disaffected minority thought otherwise. That might be repeated, is what I'm saying.
It would take a big stretch for the Nationalist/Republican mindset of today to have a UI that is attractive to the PUL people. I have my doubts about that stretch happening.
who created that 'disaffected minority' who 'thought otherwise'?
I'll tell you who, those that usurped the democratic and parliamentary process.
Unionists in opposition to the impending third reading and now unavoidable implementation of the Irish Home Rule Bill rebelled against their beloved 'Mother of Parliaments' and signed their Ulster Covenant.
This was in turn mimicked by constitutional Nationalism in the forming of the Irish Volunteers. The constitutional Irish Volunteers quickly became a vehicle for the revolutionary Irish Republican Brotherhood ... and after that it was more or less turtles all the way down!
Jesus, can someone tell Henry Joy (in real life) his accounts been hacked?
as far as I can tell the integrity of my blogger account is still OK, thanks for your concern though.
The arrogance of these Unionist, so-called, academics is both stupefying and deeply offensive (even Ian and Steve, to their credit, implicitly recognise and acknowledge this in their comments).
HJ, I understand your objections, but your hook comment conjured images of Mussolini and Petacci’s demise, decidedly un-HJ in its violence!Delete
Freud postulated that all our neuroses have their roots in repression of our murderous or lustful intents.
Wouldn't want to do that now would we?
Freud said it hey? I heard he peddled unprovable, bogus claptrap that’s good to use as filler at dinner parties. Not my area of expertise though, so don’t quote me.Delete
You heard wrong Dáithí.Delete
Freud proposed that humans, though we like to think to the contrary, are seldom rational actors. He suggested that we are each to varying degree and circumstance, subject to how well our intrinsic physical and emotional needs are met, driven by largely unconscious urges.
Of course, there's no argument about Freud's legacy being well contested. However, as Camille Paglia wrote in 'Sexual Personae':
"Freud has no rivals among his successors because they think he wrote science, when in fact he wrote art."
And for a finish on this Dáithí, I'm going to suggest that his ideas, most especially through the work of his 'double nephew' Edward Bernays (1891 - 1995), have irrevocably moulded and shaped our epoch.
"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. ...We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. ...In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind."
-- Propaganda (1928) pp. 9–10
I agree that Unionists created a disaffected minority by refusing to submit to Home Rule. I say they were right to assert their own self-determination, just as the Irish were. The pity was that they did not at least show respect for each other and try to agree a Partition that would give the most to each other that can be achieved with two nations in one land. They let it crashland into Partition instead.
The democratic process cannot subvert national rights. Our loyalty to Britain ended when they sought to hand us over to Irish rule.
Thankfully things were kept at a low level of conflict.
But the lessons are there for the emerging majority in NI - try for an agreed solution rather than impose one.
you're either a democrat or you're not. It's a bit like a pregnancy test, there's no room for ambiguity. There's no integrity in espousing democratic values one day and advocating for or taking on undemocratic positions the next.
The unease that's currently manifesting within some Unionist quarters is an outworking of their own inconsistencies when it comes to committing to true democratic principles.
Like Eoghan suggests don't sweat this too much, a united Ireland is not imminent in the short to medium time frame. And even if it ever comes about it will only come about in a very phased way, a phased way which will be generous and accommodating for PUL's. Neither FF nor FG even want a vote on unity at this point in time or indeed will they allow one any time soon, so relax guys and don't be stressing yourselves.
The truth is that the people of the Southern State don't want Nordies of any hue unless they're fairly certain that they're leaving behind them their penchant for tribal bickering and have become house-trained to true democratic understandings.
There will always be disaffected minorities.
And they’ll always have their gripes and grievances.
But in no way should any minority rule the roost for a majority.
Their democratic input into the policy decision making process….
Should only ever be in proportion to their real numbers.
All of course with due legal regard to everyone’s human rights.
So, I don’t think it’s a stretch...
To have a UI like New Zealand or Ontario.
Which would - no doubt - be attractive to a lot of different people.
And I write from an Irish Nationalist/Republican mindset.
However, I nonetheless have my doubts that this will happen.
But not because a minority of disaffected NI unionists say so.
Since they’re just a pretext for continued British rule in Ireland.
Boris Johnson & company will throw them under the bus…
If and whenever that makes sense for the British power elite to do so.
Because it’s never really about democracy with that contented minority.
Democracy isn't applicable between nations. The Irish did not accept the right of the English, Scottish and Welsh to decide their future. They asserted their right to self-determination.
Same for the British people in NI. They have a long presence here as a distinct people, just as distinct from the Irish/Gael as the latter were from the British. We could have blended over time, but both sides bear the responsibility for subverting that, long before NI was set up.
So democracy is not the issue, national self-determination is.
But if it works out that the UI presented is attractive to the PULs, then that will be fine.
Wolfie come now and stop taking the piss!Delete
Nationhood and self-determination rights for the colonist's settlers ... why don't you rub our noses in it a bit harder?. You've as little right, and as much chance, of imposing that slippery schematic on the people of Ireland as the Afrikaners had/have of imposing it on the people of South Africa.
You guys really don't get it: the powers that be in the Southern State really don't covet the six counties anymore, and that's assuming that they really ever did. Constitutionally they're off the hook, off the hook after the amendments to Articles 2 & 3 following on to the GFA. They're far, far more interested in retaining and enhancing foreign direct investment and securing the necessary conditions to ensure that continues. Any imagined threat of civil unrest wouldn't suit us at all, at all down here.
The southern elite will bend over backwards and kiss their own arses to make sure none of ye backwoods men rattle your cages any louder. Sure aren't we commemorating the 'fallen brave of the RIC and DMP' next month.
Just let the 'Orangies' shout booh a couple of times over the next 12 months and I'm sure they organise a commemoration for 'the fallen brave' of the 'Black and Tans' too!
Come down south more often Ian and open your eyes; its an imperfect society sure, but there's very very few Nationalist bogey-men lurking in the dark down here ... Nationalist bogey men, I'd hazard, now exist predominantly in Unionist heads!
To your point about:
There are no Irish Nationalists boogymen in the 26.
In all my years living and going to school in Dublin...
The only Irish Republican I ever met...was me.
The 26 is truly a Vichy state wonderland.
West British to the bone with colonial sycophants galore!
All babbling the usual neo-liberal dribble as their political cover...
To be a province once again and an even a colder house for Irish Nationalists and Republicans.
So you're right...
Unionists need to get down more to see for themselves.
White SA made the mistake - and sin - of seeking to control all of SA. The rights of the non-whites to their own self-determination were ignored. Just like the Irish tried to rule the whole of Ireland, ignoring the rights of the non-Jewish to their self-determination.
Settlers can be one a separate nation from the nation they came from. America, Australia, Canada, NZ are examples.
I have been down south several times in recent history and have found the people refreshingly changed from the priest-ridden society of the past. I have no problem with them as a neighbouring nation. I gave many Irish friends in the south, most of them brothers and sisters in Christ. If circumstances meant I had to take refuge there, I would find it easy to live with.
But I would lose my national identity. That is something I don't want to lose, and will not voluntarily lose.
The dilemma facing ROI over its remembrance of the war of independence illustrates why we PULs would not fit in a UI. The people many of you view as villains, we view as heroes. We the UI celebrate our heroes as it does it's own? Cromwell, William III? The RIC, Tans, RUC, Army, SAS?
That's the only sort of UI that we would think of accepting. Or one where a line was drawn on the past and no heroes before that would be remembered. The day of the reunion would become the new Independence Day.
Can you live with that?
let me respond with a quote from John Milton's 'Paradise Lost' or a recall as best as memory allows;
"The mind of itself is its own place.
It can maketh a hell out of heaven,
And a heaven out of hell."
Despite what some ideological Irish Nationalists might fantasise, any 'United Ireland' agreed isn't going to be the nirvana they'd dreamt of. In fact it'll be so far removed from their idolised fantasy that some will remain as ever hugely disgruntled.
This cohort will be mirrored by sections in Unionism, comprising those equally removed from reasoned critical evaluation and to include those currently deriding any changes to existing arrangements as a disaster of dystopian proportions.
Disaffected minorities from both traditions will always exist. Unfortunately for them, any little sway that they may hold over reasonable people will diminish greatly over time. When the circumstances demand it, pragmatism and decency will prevail over ideology and identity politics. Though I don't expect unification any time soon, I believe that when it does come most reasonable PUL's will see it as a favourable enough choice.
For that to happen their identity will have to be recognised in some significant symbolic way. They will be free to self-define as having roots in another nation just as happens in the US where we have Italian Americans, Irish Americans, African americans and whatever you're having yourself. As in the States people will be free to self-define as they see fit but will always be required to conform as Americans first. Similarly we'll have Nigerian-Irish, Polish, Lithuanian, British, Ulster-Irish and Ulster-Scots-Irish if you want. There'll be a hotch potch multicultural, multi-hyphenated mix defining themselves as they choose but as in the US they'll essentially be Irish first. And likewise as in the States, the founding fathers will remain the founding fathers.
(Of course a few statues of Confederate Generals still remain across the pond and 'the Blood Stained Banner' is still flown in parts).
Identity claims are one thing, jurisdictional claims another.
Identity claims are a human right.
Jurisdictional claims are land grabs.
For instance, in the US there are still folks who pine for the U.K.
They even belong to pro-British culture clubs.
And march in commemoration events as "Red Coats".
And that's fine so long as the U.K. doesn't lay claim to the U.S.
So be Himalayan for all I care, just not with my wife.
You lads may believe that the Irish founding fathers are the only valid ones for a UI, and you gave the right to want that.ReplyDelete
But no honest Unionist will look upon them other than the enemies they were.
So your vision of a UI is one where the defeated Unionists are welcome to remain, if they are quiet or change their British identity to become a transGael.
No Unionist will ever vote for that. No Unionist will accept it. What they may be able to do about it is another matter. At the least they will seek to leave and be compensated for their property and relocation.
We all should have respect for our neighbours and seek to meet their needs as well as our own. Failure to do that will bring its own reward.
none of us can be certain what the future holds and in truth I wish you and your community no harm. However I think that we can in honesty agree that the Union between 'Great Britain' and 'Northern Ireland' is entering a shaky phase ... and that ultimately a fracture of some sort in this relationship is coming. Unionists can't unfortunately expect to avoid some discomfort during this process.
As alluded to earlier in the thread, its not in the Southern State's interest to antagonise PUL's and rest assured they'll sweeten the pill for Unionists as best they can but as evident from the recent climb-down over the RIC commemoration the citizens will only bend so far in their level of compromise.
Reasonable people in your community have a job of work to do. They ought drop their overly emotional appraisals, quit their 'dog in the manger' antics and face up to the actualities; the actuality that the Union is under threat, under threat from pressure essentially not of Republicans' nor Nationalists' makings and the actuality that the RoI is a thoroughly modern, benign and tolerant place where rights of citizens are protected in both national and European law.
And, that not even the most trenchant can swim against the tide forever and a day.
Many US Southerners still look upon the Northern US Army as the enemies they were.
But they eventually got over it and moved on united as one country.
None of them quiet, no changed identities and no trans-Yanks.
Just see this old video which kind of says it all:
Battle of Gettysburg 75th anniversary (1938)
And the American Civil War was far more violent than the Irish Troubles:
Roughly 2% of the population, an estimated 620,000 men, lost their lives in the line of duty.
So, what you think is my vision is just your own self-serving delusion.
You are my fellow Irishman with all the same rights to Ireland that I have.
I simply don’t accept your acceptance of British government claims to any part of Ireland.
Thanks guys for your thoughtful comments.ReplyDelete
I do hope that things work out well for both our peoples, in a UI or out of it. But we need to see that we are not one people, just two peoples that have the ability to merge or to work alongside one another. A forced union will be like a bad marriage, without love and open to a painful divorce. The Americans had the benefit of being one people before the Civil War, so it could return to that, despite the bitterness left by the war. There is no such national identity between us. It can be achieved, to form a new nation from the two - but not by subsuming one nation into the other.
Just as I can't demand the Nationalist in NI to be reconciled to being British, neither can the Nationalist in NI or ROI demand that I be reconciled to being Irish. Two peoples, one land; so we better work at living together in peace, whatever the solution is.
Just know though that we have never been one or two people.
We are about 6.72 million different people from all 32 counties and:
“An estimated 622,700 non-Irish nationals are living in Ireland”
And many Irish (too many in my opinion) are pro-British and anti-Irish.
So, I don’t know what you’re afraid of.
Since you’d likely win an an election in the 26 before I would.
But don’t get the cart before the horse.
It was the British who imposed their partition on the Irish.
Imagine if the Irish did that to the British!
Know too that Americans have never been one people...ever.
And they still aren’t.
Nevertheless, Abe Lincoln (an English-American Deist)...
Violently imposed on the US South.
Just like Slobodan Milošević violently imposed on Bosnia and Kosovo.
And for the same reasons: i.e. trying to save their federal union.
Even though many US Southerners were Scots-Irish Protestants.
Most of whom got involuntarily stuck in Mr. Lincoln’s bad marriage.
Yet most Yanks have managed to muddle through and still do.
So, I don’t think we need to form one nation from two nations.
We can simply have one (1) democratic sovereign government...
For all identities living here.
Just like the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand do.
Because If you identify as British then that’s your Human Right.
And EU Citizens from Ireland have the right to live in any EU country.
But your identity rights...
Shouldn’t give the UK jurisdictional claims over any other EU country.
Ireland (32) included.