Below are suggestions of what might work, not necessarily what I would campaign for or even vote for myself.
What sort of format could a United Ireland take?
Éire Nua was a good template for a United Ireland, but is so from a republican perspective. It has however got the attention of some loyalists today and also back in Ruairi O'Bradaigh's time. However, something even better is needed, and we need to look abroad for what works elsewhere.
I first was a fan of the Swiss model, believing it to be based on a solution to an ethnic and sectarian set of wars a few hundred years ago. While they had an impact, the system of how Switzerland works predates that issue. So, I had to look elsewhere.
There was a Bosnia style triple presidency proposed in 1798. I had a booklet written on it which I bought from an advert in the Irelands Own, and lost it along with a treasure trove of other books and documents in the house fire I had in Ballinamuck some 9 years ago now. That too could be looked at and will be explored below.
Understanding the Problem
To find a solution to a problem, we first must understand the problem, and in Éire Nua we just tried to understand those with the problem and meet them half way. What was not done, was see them where they are, where they were, and where they may be, and what to do with areas where neither community are in a clear majority for a substantial constituence.
So far, the only place that has looked and dealt with that issue in their areas of contention is Moldovia, and its autonomous area Gagauzia. It has some but not all of what may work in Ireland.
The Gagauz are a Turkic people, who are Orthodox, one of the few if only Orthodox populations of Turkic peoples, the rest being some form of Islam from Siberia to the Levant. Only in Siberia itself are the original animist beliefs held.
The Turkic peoples are like the Celts, a loose group of similar but far from the same peoples, of which Turkey are only one peoples. On the break up of the Soviet Union, they declared independence, which was and is backed by Russia as their lands are strategic in Budjak area, and it would be very useful indeed for Russia to have allies there. Moldavia, already having issues in Transdniestr do not want that, and I’m sure behind the scenes neither does the West.
So a compromise had to be achieved, and the Gagauz solution was what was agreed, and I think deserves a look for how it could be implemented in Ireland.
The areas where these people live are geographically separate, in four main areas and a few villages. So each area is ruled by a central government in one city with usual local administration like anywhere else. It is what makes up the area that’s of note.
Some are mixed areas, some pure Gagauz, and some with reducing numbers of Gagauz. When 30% of population want to hold a plebiscite on whether their area can join or leave Gagauz, a referendum must be held which is binding. It is my understanding that the referendum is 50+1%
You can have enclaves within enclaves, as is the case on the Belgali / India border areas, as anyone who has watched "Weird Border" videos on YouTube can attest. Belgium and Holland have something similar, in Baarle-Nassau.
|Baarle-Nassau (Image by “Tos” at Wikipedia)
If that was implemented here, in Derry say, that allows Derry City to be nationalist, for example, the Fountain to be loyalist, and say a street within the Fountain to be nationalist (not that that's liable to happen!).
For what to do with the mixed areas that are neither is what is not addressed even by Moldovia, and the concept of condominium like Andorra would probably sort that. Basically, joint rule.
Are we to be a Republic, a Kingdom, or Neither a Republic or a Kingdom? Oh, and the Commonwealth quandary!
Others may or may not agree that this is a workable solution. There are some issues such as what do do with the Commonwealth where they won't join unless we are in and many would vote against a united Ireland if it was a condition to rejoin the Commonwealth.
Based on the Dev solution, there is an option that may suit both. Whether its practical or not is another story!
Ireland, like Eire under Dev’s constitution, could be a "state", neither a republic or not a republic.
Within that state there are two jurisdictions, the Kingdom of the Britons of Ireland (Not Kingdom of Ireland) and the Republic of Ireland who administer the areas of clear majority as defined by local plebiscite, and jointly run the areas not of clear majority.
All things being equal, this would allow both their identity, the country a united Ireland, and even allows (if allowed) for the Williamite royals to still be kings to their peoples without having any claim or influence on the land (Maybe allow them to be a hereditary senator?).
Maybe this entity of “Kingdom of the Britons of Ireland” could have voluntary association with the Commonwealth (without being a member) with all benefits of if they were, while the rest of Ireland is not.
Passports could be issued at “Eire – Republic of Ireland” for the Nationalists and “Eire – Kingdom of the Britons of Ireland” for the Unionists.
So how to negotiate all this?
There will be troublemakers both sides who only have their power by having divisions between both communities, and they have to be factored in as a obstacle to get around. We see this in the Protocol, which was brought in to allow Brexit, and capitalised on to undermine the GFA – whatever anyone thinks of that – by loyalists who want to hold onto power at any cost.
Regular unionists have drifted to Alliance, but by no means can we take for granted they will vote for a United Ireland as a result. Given the binary situation, “if its not broke don't fix it” will be the option.
We say Northern Ireland, as a state, is broken, they say its not, and both are right. Its not broken for them, and that's what we must not forget, and “I'm alight Jack” thinking pervades in most people's mind.
It is to meet that and swing that thinking that these alternative options, from my ultra radical ideas, to the more moderate Éire Nua, already in circulation are brought up. Alternatives from the loyalists are to be welcomed, as Ruairi O'Bradaigh invited in his day.
Its is not an Orange Sop, or “sop to unionists” as it was derided back in the 1970’s by hardliners who ended up settling for a lot less.
Flegs and Anthems
What flag should be for Ireland? Raymond Daly – author of Celtic and Ireland in Song and Story made submissions some years back to the consultation about the national anthem. Even among moderates, there is very little appetite for change to that or to the flag to meet a united Ireland according to the opinion polls.
However, it would be a shame, and history would never forgive us, to let a united Ireland fall on the issue of songs and flegs.
Some think the old Green Flag would be good to go for, and though I love it myself, it historically is only our community. The tricolour, its defenders state, already reflects both communities. but it is reasonable to say its so embedded with republicanism and nationalism politically, something more neutral may be better.
The Lough Erne flag may be the solution, but then which way it goes up is the question . . . I prefer blue to the top as to me its sky (blue) water (white) and ground (green). Maybe it should have been white, green and blue.
An anthem for a United Ireland is another thorn. And very well maybe whats acceptable to both communities more than whats acceptable to a majority in Ireland.
Anything bar “Irelands Call” IMHO!
Something non militant, yet stirring . . . An Irish equivalent of Ode To Joy. With the flow of “The Voice” but a more shared wording. The Irish jurisdiction could have Soldiers Song, and the British have GSTK, or even Ireland’s Call!
Security and Rebellion
The one thing we have to factor in is how to deal with a loyalist rebellion in ten or twenty years after unity. For fair reasons or foul, there well may be an insurrection of some sort.
How to deal with it if it does happen is to not do what the British did. We cannot do a Bloody Sunday against marches, or execute leaders of such actions. Internment, while effective, should not be an option either.
The best way to avoid such is to ensure there is no just cause, and maximum local rule – and thereby accountability – means that whatever is wrong is fault of the local administration, not the big bad Fenians in Dublin.
The trigger is liable to be marching.
Can there be an Orange March in Dublin?
In an Ireland of equals, where there is parity of esteem, why can there not be a march of a minority persuasion is the question already posed by loyalists when United Ireland is broached as a topic.
Commemorating WW1, that should not be a problem. Its banners and bands that are more controversial - therein is an issue.
Sitting Down with the British
We cannot afford another mess up like Collins and Co when sitting down to negotiate a united Ireland with Britain. We then have to negotiate what type of United Ireland with the unionists, whether unitary state, the Éire Nua, model, or the Carty Option!
We first must understand the basic concept of negotiation – when you sit down at the table, you already have lost half of what you asked for. The best tactic is to demand twice what you want, so what you get is something near all what you wanted in the first place.
Neither Collins not Dev took that into consideration, or understood it probably, 100 years ago. We also have to understand the others red lines, whether they can afford to walk away, or whether we can.
Do most in Ireland hold onto traditional republican positions – the anthem issue seems many do – or are we as a nation more moderate? How might republicanism take that into consideration in the concept of a 32 county vote?
Looking back: what if there was an actual vote on all possible options?
100 years ago there was no referendum on the Treaty. Given the options of the 32 county free Ireland, the Treaty as it was offered, all Ireland under UK as Home Rule, 26 county Home Rule under UK , all Ireland under the UK direct rule, the Treaty well may have shaded it about 20 / 30 / 25/ 15 / 10 – a second round of voting with the least popular options removed may well have boosted it.
Its that we must factor if we were to hold such a 32 county vote today with all options offered, which is actual island wide self determination.
What is the future of Ireland?
Does a section of Ireland have right to secede with the rest of the island's permission?
The self rule option solves the second problem so it doesn't have to be asked.
Whats your take?
In the echo chamber that is Twitter, or forums, we tend to only get our own take. The sharing of this article, and inviting criticisms of same, might start the debate on what should be the options on a 32 county referendum, which is what there should be to satisfy the demand for actual island wide self determination.
The GFA – which some republicans oppose – is losing ground rapidly among unionists. While their numbers are falling, they are still a considerable demographic, and we cannot repeat the wrongs of old by ignoring them as their forefathers did our forefathers.
Many of the republicans who support GFA on balance as it annoys the unionists have to evaluate whether is it the best option for Ireland or do we need something that goes either one way or the other?
We may need to think beyond the GFA, offer better than it, and the 32 county vote should have more than a “United Ireland, yes / no” question.
What options should these be?
One option that could is below, that ideally would have been voted on 100 years ago (though neither my idea or the Éire Nua, proposals existed then!).
- 32 county united Ireland (unitary state - independent)
- 32 county united Ireland (Home Rule – in UK)
- 32 county united Ireland (Direct Rule – in UK)
- 32 county united Ireland (26 county free, 6 county joint rule with UK)
- 32 county united Ireland (confederation of 26 county and 6 county state)
- 32 county united Ireland (Éire Nua model)
- 32 county united Ireland (the Carty option)
- 26 county free, 6 county in UK (as is, partition)
The lesser popular options, once offered, can then be removed, and the most popular can be voted on in a second round, which will probably be:
- United Ireland
- Keep partition as is.
Either way, as we talk 32, we need to plan how to do it and why. Simply a “pennies in pocket – keep the North in EU” argument will not offer the peace and stability that the north and all Ireland needs. What would happen if the EU was wound up? Unthinkable maybe, today, but so was Brexit when the GFA was signed!
🖼Tom Carty is a writer and a lifelong leftwing republican, trade union and political activist.