Wednesday, February 08, 2006

United Ireland? The English no longer care?

Well, I wouldn't go that far...
United Irelander: Top Ten Tuesday - The English:
7. Fairly objective towards Ireland's north - The English seem fairly apathetic towards the North these days and when the North is brought up, they tend to approach things with an open mind. In fact, according to recent polls, the English actually favour a United Ireland at this point.
Not yet, anyway.

For those paying attention, yes, the logo at the top combines three flags. Two crosses and a Dragon. No St Patrick to be seen. And yes, that is deliberate. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I'm British, not UKish. While I instintively distrust the likes of McGuinness and Adams, I'm not that keen on Paisley and his ilk either, both sides were out of order throughout the conflict. British Govt regularly touts the 'self determination' mantra. Anyone ask us? Keep 1707, that one made us Great. Get rid of 1800, we were never really United, were we?

Now is not the time, no idea when it will be, but I just don't care about 6 counties and the protestanct ascendancy. Never have. Not just because I'm an atheist. Orange landed at Brixham, doesn't mean I like the Orangemen much...

18 comments:

United Irelander said...

Well I was only going on the findings of the most recent poll on British attitudes towards Irish Unity from this poll in The Guardian which showed 41% of Britons in favour of a UI.

Can I ask what your thoughts are on those in the north of Ireland who see themselves as British?

Jonn Elledge said...

But with the exception of a few Rangers fans, holding on to Ulster is no longer an issue of national pride for the British any more, if it ever was. Paisley and Adams may argue about the principles of the situation, but both the Blair and Ahern governments have seemed far more concerned with making the best of the situation on the ground.

And on the ground, the six counties fit into neither country. Half their inhabitants may not think of themselves as British; but they've missed out on the prosperity that's transformed Ireland over the last twenty years.

So, er.... it's a mess. Which we knew already.

MatGB said...

@ John; pretty much agree, it's all messed up, and the inhabitants have suffered economically because of it.

@UI Essentially, I'm not actually bothered. We (well, I) no longer want them, and consider them no more British than you; part of the British Isles, but that's it, Britain is this side of the water.

If they want to be British, then they can come here, alternately they can accept whatever settlement we offer them, which I suspect will likely be some sort of dual sovereignty/autonomy within the EU, an improvement, in some way, of the Andorra model.

At a basic level, 200 years of bloodshed for pretty much no net gain, and that's only counting post Union. While I'm aware that Cromwell wasn't half as bad as some Irish histories say, pretty awful is still a pretty good description of his policies.

United Irelander said...

While I feel there might be issues of identity for unionists to deal with, I don't feel nationalists have that problem. They are born in Ireland and feel Irish. It's a fairly simple situation for them but unionists aren't born in Britain but yet class themselves as British. It's almost as if they have to prove their identity.

The Irish identity is starting to evolve just like the English identity has. England is currently made up of several diverse cultures and Ireland is heading down that route. 100,000 Polish people are living in Dublin right now which makes them 10% of Dublin's population. In the near future the Irish identity will have several cultural aspects to it just like England.

I am not sure how the North will react to this, and in particular how unionists will react to this.

Jonn said...

A friend of mine - Belfast Catholic, Protestant father, educated in England and living in London - has his own solution to this one.

The six counties aren't fully Irish; nor are they really British. So give them their own state - call it Ulster. Then, as both sides of the argument would presumably admit they were Ulstermen, it could form the basis for a new identity that embraces all of them.

Two problems with this approach, of course: noone would want it and it'd probably end up in civil war. But interesting idea, I think.

United Irelander said...

Jonn

"A friend of mine - Belfast Catholic, Protestant father, educated in England and living in London - has his own solution to this one.

"The six counties aren't fully Irish; nor are they really British. So give them their own state - call it Ulster. Then, as both sides of the argument would presumably admit they were Ulstermen, it could form the basis for a new identity that embraces all of them."

I don't think an independent state could work.

I would take issue with the suggestion that the six counties aren't fully Irish. Of course they are. Also, the Irish Republic has three Ulster counties so calling an independent state 'Ulster' would not be a sensible option.

MatGB said...

UI, how about autonomy within both states, and possibly all 9 counties of the historic province?

'tis the loyalists who mostly use the term Ulstermen afterall...

Essentially, I'm not ruling out any solution, but some are better than others; complete transfer to the republic, even with autonomy, would be, I suspect, the cause of more bloodshed than we've seen so far.

Complete independence would not be my preferred solution, but it's better than status quo I think. Not much better, but still better.

an deoraĆ­ocht said...

Hi matgb,

I'm a refugee from a United Ireland(er)(!), but there were a couple of points that I wanted to pull you up on here, which I don't think were covered earlier.

First, you're use of the term "Protestant ascendancy"- you need to update your history books mate!

The most recent Census in Northern Ireland showed that that the Shankill(overwhelmingly Unionist) ward was also the most socio-economically deprived, 5 out of the ten most deprived wards in Belfast were also Unionist.

Now, I know you're not daft enough to think we all live in castles, but also the use of the word "Protestant" probably also is outdated, don't let what you see on 30 second snatches on tv fool you. We're not all raving evangelical fundamentalists. Also it's being shown in surveys, that an increasing number of (middle-class) Catholics would vote for the Union given the right circumstances.

So taking all(!) that into account I'd say that probably "Unionist" would be a better description than "Protestant ascendancy"

"We (well, I) no longer want them, and consider them no more British than you; part of the British Isles, but that's it, Britain is this side of the water."

I'm sorry that you feel like that matgb, but it doesn't take away the fact that I was born and will die British. Your opinion on that matter is neither here nor there;)

"If they want to be British, then they can come here, alternately they can accept whatever settlement we offer them"

That's awfully decent of you!

Again a history lesson may be in order here. My ancestors came to the NE corner of Ireland over 400 years ago, they have been in Ulster longer than the the white man has been in N America. The proposal you suggest( and I know this wasn't your intention) has a whiff of ethnic cleansing about it. Troublesome group of people don't fit into their surroundings, move them out of their home and country regardless of their own wishes.

Now, if you'd said that it's up to the British government and the Irish to prove to us why it would be in our long-term interest to break our constitutional link with Westminster, then I could have accepted that.

The sad truth for the little Englanders(no offence) and United Irelanders of this world is that no matter how much you dislike it, the Unionist of N.Ireland are British and are here to stay. By all means use negotiation and persuasion to change their mind, but this kind of" they can accept whatever settlement we offer them" nonsense has zero chance of delivering a peaceful solution to the present situation.

jonn said...

United Irelander: I wasn't seriously proposing indepdence. As I said in my original post, that would cause problems in itself, not least economically.

But as I understand it, there is a serious cultural difference between the north and the republic, and not just because 40%+ of the population of the six counties are, to some degree or another, unionists.

The two parts of Ireland have had very different recent histories, and have very different economic situations; that's quite apart from the difference in the way people in the two parts of the island see themselves.

I have no problem with the idea of uniting Ireland - I don't feel as strongly about this as Mat seems to, but neither do I feel any particular attachment to the six counties as part of Britain. Whatever people want is fine with me.

But all that said, I don't think uniting Ireland would be a straightforward process, even if everyone was to accept it and renounce violence today. There are simply too many differences that would need to be overcome.

MatGB said...

At an deoraiocht specifically, I've writted a new post replying and answering your points, but blogger won't let me publish it. It may come through at any point though, it''ll be here when it does.

United Irelander said...

mat

"UI, how about autonomy within both states, and possibly all 9 counties of the historic province?"

Sort of like Joint Authority? I think that could actually prove a good solution but I don't think unionists would welcome it.

an deoraĆ­ocht

""The sad truth for the little Englanders(no offence) and United Irelanders of this world is that no matter how much you dislike it, the Unionist of N.Ireland are British and are here to stay. By all means use negotiation and persuasion to change their mind, but this kind of" they can accept whatever settlement we offer them" nonsense has zero chance of delivering a peaceful solution to the present situation."

Actually I think the 'take it or leave it' mentality has been from the unionist side of the equation. The two governments have worked hard to get the North's assembly up and running but Ian Paisley doesn't want to know.

John

"But as I understand it, there is a serious cultural difference between the north and the republic, and not just because 40%+ of the population of the six counties are, to some degree or another, unionists."

I don't agree John. For example here on RTE television, issues that affect the North are broadcast and people down south get to watch BBC Northern Ireland and Ulster television.

I think our cultures are very intertwined.

jonn said...

An analogy could perhaps be the reunification of Germany. Obviously there were pretty special circumstances that do not apply in Ireland, but one key point - the massive difference in wealth - does. Fifteen years on, Germany still hasn't recovered economically, because the west is largely propping up the east; and the east has suffered from being included in social legislation - minimum wage etc - it just isn't able to afford at the moment.

The differential in Ireland isn't as extreme, obviously. But I do think that the big economic differences mean that it wouldn't just be a matter of declaring Ireland united - there would need to be an adjustment period, measured in years or decades rather than months.

For what it's worth, I'm really enjoying this conversation...

MatGB said...

As am I; I like the Germany analogy actually, not entirely a parallel, but enough similarities to make it worth a look at.

Oh, correct follow up post is here, the earlier link is messed up.

UI? I don't think, at first read, that Unionists would like it. Which is why it's probably worth talking about the issue in Britain proper, so that if it is a commonly held view, Unionists understand how isolated they've become. If they have; as I said, I speak for me, not the country as a whole.

an deoraiocht said...

UI
"Actually I think the 'take it or leave it' mentality has been from the unionist side of the equation"

I'd disagree, the main reason that Trimble and moderate Unionism collapsed was the failure of the IRA to carry out their side of the bargain agreed to in the GFA.

The increasingly popularity of hardline, "no surrender" Unionism was a direct result of this.

Matgb & jonn

"I like the Germany analogy actually, not entirely a parallel, but enough similarities to make it worth a look at"

It's main weakness as an analogy is that almost all Germans both side of the border actually wanted this unity to happen( although in the Western part I think there are many who now have regrets re the economic consequences). This unanimous desire for unity is obviously not the case in N.Ireland

Also technically, unlike "Ireland" Germany existed as a legal, internationally recognised and indivisible state pre 1948.

United Irelander said...

MatGB

"UI? I don't think, at first read, that Unionists would like it. Which is why it's probably worth talking about the issue in Britain proper, so that if it is a commonly held view, Unionists understand how isolated they've become. If they have; as I said, I speak for me, not the country as a whole."

I don't think they really care though what the British from Britain think. Historically they never have. The Liberals in 1912 were set to grant Ireland Home Rule and the unionists formed the UVF with the intention of fighting the British government over the issue. They tend to believe that they will be part of the UK for as long as they like.

an deoraiocht

"Actually I think the 'take it or leave it' mentality has been from the unionist side of the equation"

"I'd disagree, the main reason that Trimble and moderate Unionism collapsed was the failure of the IRA to carry out their side of the bargain agreed to in the GFA."

In fairness, there were alot of things that Republicans didn't get that they were promised but I agree Trimble was let down by the IRA at the time.

"The increasingly popularity of hardline, "no surrender" Unionism was a direct result of this."

I would agree with that but I think its getting ridiculous at this point. I know we shouldn't expect sense from Ian Paisley but still...

Matgb & jonn

"Also technically, unlike "Ireland" Germany existed as a legal, internationally recognised and indivisible state pre 1948."

Germany's borders were altered throughout the 19th and 20th century, Ireland however is a clear and distinct unit - it is an island. Thus, the establishemnt of a border which ripped the Irish nation in two is, in my opinion, more obvious and problematic than the German division.

MatGB said...

@UI; essentially, I'm a bit like Katherine in the other comment thread; I don't actually care for borders in the slightest, I don't worry about them. I want a long term solution in which Britain can withdraw (if that is to be what we do) in an honourable way such that we don't create a bloodbath. I fear the extremist "Loyalist" groups much more than I fear any remaining Republican splinters; the latter may be a threat to me as a "mainlander" but the loyalists threaten the process itself.

@ AD; Last time I looked, Ireland was a contiguous Kingdom on UI's proposed borders before the Brits got involved. the borders of modern Germany were never the borders of any pre-existing state. It's an analogy, a parallel, not the best, but there is never going to be an exact parallel to study, doesn't stop us learning where we can.

Anonymous said...

A few points here.

First, the protestant idea that there are many unionist catholics in the south is not really accurate. It may have been more accurate in pre-1916 days, but nowadays it's just a myth. The vast majority of southern protestants are nationalists, and of the few republicans I've ever met, 3 of them were protestants.

Furthermore, in my humble opinion, the stereotype of the vehemently pro-British unionist protestant is also (at least partly) exadgerrated. I've been shocked to find a lot of northern protestants I've met actually have a positive view of a possible future United Ireland.

On the flip side of that, there are quite a lot of southern nationalists who switched off years ago, and have lost interest in re-unification. In short, the thinking goes like this: "Bombs = pain". "North = agression + people who hate us" therefore "North + South = pain".

Those southerners would take a lot of convincing to agree to a united ireland. That is a big difficulty.

The majority of people in the south are vehemently anti-republican, in fact most people actually virulently hate republicans - unlike 20 years ago, when they had more sympathy.

Dont confuse - southerners do not want to join the UK. There is a strong feeling of friendliness towards the English, but also a "competitiveness of equals" in terms of business and other areas.

Anonymous said...

A few points here.

First, the protestant idea that there are many unionist catholics in the south is not really accurate. It may have been more accurate in pre-1916 days, but nowadays it's just a myth. The vast majority of southern protestants are nationalists, and of the few republicans I've ever met, 3 of them were protestants.

Furthermore, in my humble opinion, the stereotype of the vehemently pro-British unionist protestant is also (at least partly) exadgerrated. I've been shocked to find a lot of northern protestants I've met actually have a positive view of a possible future United Ireland.

On the flip side of that, there are quite a lot of southern nationalists who switched off years ago, and have lost interest in re-unification. In short, the thinking goes like this: "Bombs = pain". "North = agression + people who hate us" therefore "North + South = pain".

Those southerners would take a lot of convincing to agree to a united ireland. That is a big difficulty.

Catholics have quit in droves from attending church, or joining the priesthood, due to the sex scandals. At the time of writing, kids associate that becoming a priest means you're probably gay, a bishop means you're secretly married, or even worse you may be a pedo. It's ripped apart the position of the catholic church in Ireland permanently, and it's hard to see how it will ever recover. If these were more religious times, then I would have predicted a mass conversion to protestantism, however, it's more likely that the swing will be to lifestyle-ism and feng shui.

The majority of people in the south are vehemently anti-republican, in fact most people actually virulently hate republicans - unlike 20 years ago, when they had more sympathy.

Dont confuse - southerners do not want to join the UK. There is a strong feeling of friendliness towards the English, but also a "competitiveness of equals" in terms of business and other areas.

Because of enormous need of jobs after independence, depression, recessions, etc., years of irish emigration have created a huge number of family and friendship links have been established with England over the years. Since the peace process in the north, those relationships have completely transformed the nature of Irish-English relations.

You may notice, If you ever watch TV Chatshow interviews in Ireland or UK, there's a sense of "let's pretend we're all in the same country".

Talking about Northern Ireland in a public place is frowned upon, because everyone knows there's an English person nearby who may be offended. So, whatever you think about SAS execution squads or crazy orange marchers in private those public views are considered too impolite to be expressed publically.

The new south is confident, strong, very friendly, but also quite cheeky, agressive in business, and totally focused away from the north. In truth, no-one gives a toss if you're unionist, buddhist, or both. I mean that REALLY. The important thing is that you are available to work in Dublin, your car's toxic emissions are not over the limit, and that you don't park illegally.

Irishness has considerably broadened in so many ways.

In my own opinion, I think that re-unification is possible, but there are numerous cultural differences between north and south that have nothing to do with religion. The south is far too centralised, and has neglected to develop smaller towns in terms of population growth. Rural areas are still neglected, although they have much nicer buildings than before, and capuccinos are available.

Ulster Demographics:
9 counties in Ulster. So, Northern Ireland has about 66% of Ulster. Of that 66% only 2 counties have a protestant majority. So, 7 of 9 counties in Ulster have a catholic majority.

Population split in the 66% is about 55-45%. So, that means that when Paisley used to say things like "Ulster is British", that, technically, he should have said "Ulster is mostly Irish, with some really strong populations of 'Northern Irish' on the east coast", since after all, "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" is the name of the country, so 'Northern Irish' would be the name of the people in.. Northern Ireland.

Trimble once said that if the UK disbanded that "every unionist has heard of the Kingdom of Dalriada". (Scotland and Ireland united under Irish rule) Hmmmm.. I can't see it happening.

However, the idea of a 6.5 million strong United Ireland singing the rugby anthem, becoming the shining light of Europe is very appealing.

You know, I did the math, and if our population continues to expand like this, then we'll have a population in 2075-ish that would rival today's Japan.

I wonder...