Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Brown's article only serves as a reminder that Ulster unionists must be UK unionists

I’ve been away from a computer over the Easter break and so have rather missed the boat commenting on Gordon Brown’s extraordinary article purportedly defending the Union in the Daily Telegraph. O’Neill has provided a blow by blow account on Unionist Lite. His contention is that Brown’s Labour government dealt the gravest blows to the integrity of the Union in the first place through their devolution project and he is unsurprised to find their leader doing such a shoddy job of defending it now.

The startling thing about Brown’s article is that his entire argument explicitly focuses on England, Scotland and Wales’ place in the Union and pointedly avoids mentioning Northern Ireland. As O’Neill correctly notes, the entire basis of Brown’s multi-national, dual identity argument for the Union is rather undermined by this omission. If a strong sense of national identity does not militate against fully participating in the Union and feeling an overarching British identity, why would Northern Ireland be a special circumstance? Do some sea and a more recalcitrant nationalism to oppose negate the unionist argument?

If Brown wishes to defend the Union as a concept, he had better remember that there are four countries within that Union. He had better defend the entire Union. But I would draw another point from this article and the prevailing attitude in Britain which it belies. Ulster Unionists need to be thoroughly engaged in the UK wide debate about the Union and its shape and future. Ulster Unionists must be eloquent in their defence of the whole Union, if they have realistic hopes of unionists from Britain doing likewise. Parochialism is no longer an option and the argument for Ulster Unionism must be framed ever more firmly within a broader debate for Union.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Irish sea means that Irish Unionists aren't really part of the UK in any meaningful way. They're just allowed stay under UK jurisdiction to stop a civil war in Ireland while they have a majority in the 6 counties.

Any Irish Unionist starts spouting off in Westminster about how Ulster Unionists want the Union to be will be told to f-off back to Ireland, Paddy. That's why the DUP are smart enough to keep quiet.

O'Neill said...

"The Irish sea means that Irish Unionists aren't really part of the UK in any meaningful way."

My MP sits in the UK's parliament, I have a UK passport, hell I even pay UK taxes and will collect a UK passport when that time venetually comes...that's "meaningful" enough for me, what else should I be asking for to make it more "meaningful" do you think?

"They're just allowed stay under UK jurisdiction to stop a civil war in Ireland while they have a majority in the 6 counties."

Oh dear, how very 1970s you're not a member of NORAID or some similar "expat" Irish organistion by any chance are you? Anyway... the rest of us back in Northern Ireland, UK voted on something called the Belfast Agreement over 10 years ago. The vast majority (and the UK government) agreed to respect the will of the majority of the NI's population in this matter. That's the legal basis why we remain a part of the UK.

Any Irish Unionist starts spouting off in Westminster about how Ulster Unionists want the Union to be will be told to f-off back to Ireland, Paddy.

Wel, are they Irish Unionists or Ulster Unionists?
You seem confused, as far I'm personally concerned they are one and the same, to your main point: Reading your comment, you don't really strike me as the kind of person who keeps too close an eye on what's going on at The Mother of Parliaments. I do and I'm sorry to have to inform you that in the last three months alone the DUP and the one UUP MPs have not only been present, but actually spoken on matters pertaining to the Union-Hansard doesn't record them being told once to "f-off back to Ireland, Paddy".

"That's why the DUP are smart enough to keep quiet."

But they aren't keeping quiet, just yesterday they made a complaint to Mr Brown's office about his most recent speech.

Massimo Crotch said...

"The Irish sea means that Irish Unionists aren't really part of the UK in any meaningful way. They're just allowed stay under UK jurisdiction to stop a civil war in Ireland while they have a majority in the 6 counties.

Any Irish Unionist starts spouting off in Westminster about how Ulster Unionists want the Union to be will be told to f-off back to Ireland, Paddy. That's why the DUP are smart enough to keep quiet."

Brian Feeney dropping by with a preview of next week's column?

O'Neill said...

and will collect a UK passport when that time venetually comes

Make that "a UK pension when the time eventually comes"!!!
See, even more meaningful;)

Anonymous said...

Meaningful, O'Neill, means actually contributing something positive to a country. Not leaching finamcially off another country indefinitely. What exactly do Ulster Unionists contribite to Britain apart from cannon fodder in 1916 and perennial flag wavers?

Anyone talks about British culture they talk of famous Englishmen, some famous Scots and the odd Welshman.

In Ireland, however, Protestant Ulstermen have a proud history. Henry Joy being just one. ;) Even old Eddie Carson and (Sir) Ian Paisley will long be remembered in our history.

In Britain they are meaningless Orange Paddies.

O'Neill said...

Meaningful, O'Neill, means actually contributing something positive to a country.

So, you're changing your terms of reference now that I've shown you that I am a meaningful part of the UK.
What have I contributed towards the UK, I pay UK taxes for a start...I'm sorry I'm not personally contributing that much more culturally towards my nation, but I guess that's true for about 99.9999% of my fellow citizens in the rest of the UK. I show a pride in and care about the UK, I've always thought that was enough.

Not leaching finamcially off another country indefinitely.

You mean exactly like Merseyside, the North-east, South wales etc etc leech off the SE of England? Are you advocating that they should also be split off against from their nation against their will?
Huge swathes of east Germany "leech off" the western part, southern Italy off the northern part- time then for Dresden and Naples to be cast adfrift from the rest of their nation?

Anyone talks about British culture they talk of famous Englishmen, some famous Scots and the odd Welshman.

CS Lewis, Van Morrison, Duke of Wellington, if you want to go a bit further back... famous Irishmen who're also regarded as part of the wider British culture.
I'm sure if you thought about it a more deeply you'd be able to think of many more

In Ireland, however, Protestant Ulstermen have a proud history. Henry Joy being just one. ;) Even old Eddie Carson and (Sir) Ian Paisley will long be remembered in our history.

Do you believe it's not possible to be both British and Irish, or is "Irishness" defined more narrowly in your book?

In Britain they are meaningless Orange Paddies.

In Britain certain elements also say that British Asians aren't true Brits either, just because they say it or think it, doesn't make that statement any more right than the one you've quoted.

Anonymous said...

Meaningful contribution, O'Neill, means you'd be missed if you weren't there anymore. Would anyone in Britain miss anything about NI if Ireland was reunified? Of course not. NI is headache they'd prefer to be rid of and a drain on their economy, that's about all it is to Englishmen.

Yes, I believe you can be Irish and British if you choose to be called such. Just like a Norwegian or Swede can call themselves Scandinavian and Norwegian/Swedish.
But they are still politically independent countries, as all of Ireland should be.

Merseyside etc. are in Britain; NI is in Ireland. So if it has to leech it should leech off fellow Irish taxpayers, not people in England who know or care nothing about any part of Ireland. Not that the 06 would be so perpetually impotent if it was allowed to prosper in a unified Irish state.

O'Neill said...

“ Would anyone in Britain miss anything about NI if Ireland was reunified?”

Would anyone in London miss anything about Liverpool if it dropped off into the Irish sea? Of course not. Liverpool is headache they'd prefer to be rid of and a drain on their economy, that's about all it is to Londoners. Fortunately for both Liverpool and Northern Ireland we remain a part of the UK, until the people of Liverpool and Northern Ireland decide otherwise.

”Yes, I believe you can be Irish and British if you choose to be called such.”

Not quite what I said.
Irrespective of what I choose to call myself, do you believe it is possible for someone to be Irish and British?

”So if it has to leech it should leech off fellow Irish taxpayers, not people in England who know or care nothing about any part of Ireland.”

I’m sure the typical taxpayer in the ROI will be delighted to hear that kind offer you're making on their behalf. What was it Fitzgerald said last week, Irish “Unity” would mean an extra 20% income tax and or a 25% drop in public services? That might be a hard sell both sides of the border.

Anonymous said...

Yes, O'Neill, I believe you can be Irish and British, A) if you choose to be called such, and B) if you have cultural links to Britain.

But if Unionists in NI like yourself want to delude yourself into thinking you're as valued a UK citizen as people in Britain then go ahead. The REALITY, however, is that if NI seceded from the UK tomorrow for a unfied Irish state, there would be as many people in Britain happy to see Ireland reunified as in Ireland itself.

However, if Scotland/Wales has a referendum on seceding then there will be a fierce political battle across Britain for and against breaking the Union. Northern Ireland seceding won't cause any such debate among people in Britain because it is, after all, in Ireland, not in Britain.

So how can a Unionist in NI try and claim they are no different to UK citizens in Britain when they could opt to leave the UK and no one would attempt to persaude them otherwise. Can UK citizens in Scotland or Wales say the same? There's the profound difference. Not that you'll accept it, of course. But Gordon Brown and others have made it abundantly clear in reference to the Union; NI is often forgotten or barely included.

O'Neill said...

A question that I asked before which you haven’t yet answered:

Too many in Britain also dispute the right of those of an Asian or African background to regard themselves as "valuable UK citizens" as you put it; if people with similar views also dispute my right to regard myself as a “valued UK citizen”, should I really have to pay much attention to or worry myself about such opinions?

Yes, O'Neill, I believe you can be Irish and British, A) if you choose to be called such, and B) if you have cultural links to Britain.

My Britishness is not derived solely from my “cultural” links to Britain, it goes much more deeper than that.

But if Unionists in NI like yourself want to delude yourself into thinking you're as valued a UK citizen as people in Britain then go ahead.

OK, thanks.
But do you think people really think that much way about it one or another…is the typical person sitting down in England, thinking “I don’t really value those sods in NI?” Of course not. It’s a complete non-topic.
In contrast, and if you really knew what was going on with English public opinion, then you’d have already realized this, the resentment against what is perceived to be the preferential treatment received by the Scots is growing. That is a much bigger threat to the Union than anything else you’ve imagined here.

The REALITY, however, is that if NI seceded from the UK tomorrow for a unfied Irish state, there would be as many people in Britain happy to see Ireland reunified as in Ireland itself.

Bearing in mind that there is an Irish (mainly from the ROI) population (1st,2nd, 3rd generation) of almost 9 million living in Britain and Celtic’s huge support(;)), you’re probably right. But so what- that’s always been the case, right back to the formation of the state.

However, if Scotland/Wales has a referendum on seceding then there will be a fierce political battle across Britain for and against breaking the Union.

If Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales are faced by such a referendum, it will be left solely up to the people of Northern Ireland, Scotland and wales to make the decision to separate or not. There may well be fierce debate in England on the question, but ultimately that’s all it will be, the final decision will rest with the Northern irish, the scots and the Welsh.

Northern Ireland seceding won't cause any such debate among people in Britain because it is, after all, in Ireland, not in Britain.

Geographically yes, you’re 100% right, Northern Ireland is obviously a part of the island of Ireland. See my previous point re that debate.

So how can a Unionist in NI try and claim they are no different to UK citizens in Britain when they could opt to leave the UK and no one would attempt to persaude them otherwise.

I’m not different to my fellow citizens in the rest of the UK- I carry a UK passport, I pay Uk taxes, I vote in UK elections. I don’t know how I’m regarded by the rest of my citizens- you’ve yet to provide any hard statistical evidence in that score. And I think you also oversestimate the amount of anguish there would be in England if Scotland and wales were to break away- as I said before, as a British Unionist, I believe this to be a much more imminent danger to the Union.

There's the profound difference. Not that you'll accept it, of course. But Gordon Brown and others have made it abundantly clear in reference to the Union; NI is often forgotten or barely included.

Another place where Celtic nationalism is making an increasing nuisance of itself, Cornwall, was also left out I seem to remember.

Why NI is often “forgotten” or barely included:

1.Because our position in the Union is reasonably settled now.
2.Scotish separatism is now a much more potent danger to the Union than Irish nationalism which seems to have given up the fight and has instead been reduced to continually retreading the same old decades old, discredited arguments like you’ve done here.
3.The Labour Party has no MPs in NI. Brown is not a Unionist, he is much more worried about his own and his party’s position in Scotland and wales.

O'Neill said...

Hallo there anonymous,
Since you were unable or unwilling tomprovide any statistic evidence to back up your claims that the English really don't regard us as "meaningful" British, I've decided to help you out.
From this morning's Scotsman:

http://news.scotsman.com/politics/Majority-south-of-Border-think.3933272.jp

Just 16 per cent of English people said England would be better off if the union with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was ended.

16% that's about double what the only all-Ireland party (Sinn Fein) scored in last year's ROI's election wasn't it?

Oh well, back to the drawing-board.

Anonymous said...

"British" O'Neill was historically little more than a Geographical term to denote people of the British Isles. 80 per cent of the Irish disowned this term back in 1921. In the eyes of most people in Britain, Ireland was lost from the Union in '21 and NI is merely the crumbs from the Irish table.

What exactly "Britishness" is in Unionist eyes not many in Britain or Ireland can comprehend. I think many Unionists fantasise it bestows some royal dust on you. But apart from reverence for the monarchy then British "values" are no different to American or French values. They are predominantly christian democratic values not exclusive to any Western nation.

I respect Unionists, I think you have much to offer a unified Ireland. But I find it sad that you all know very well that most people in Britain don't give a damn about NI and yet still cling to a Union with a country whose people don't even want you. If you've actually lived in Britain as I have you'll know that. It's pointless behaviour, and only complete Irish independence will give you back your pride and self respect. No doubt you'll still argue over the colour of sh-t with fellow Irish people but at least Ireland will be a complete country again. People in Belgium and Switzerland aren't all culturally the same either but they share the same country so they get on with it.

Ulster Protestant history is a fundamental part of Irish history, but only a tiny peripheral part of British history. In Ireland you are an intrinsic part of the nation, in the UK you are of no significance to 60 million in Britain.

If your case is so strong, Unionists should head South and bring the Unionist gospel with them. If it's so convincing why should you not gain cnverts in the 26? Why do 80 per cent of people on this island still want independence? All anti-Brits, or all 21st century realists?

Chekov said...

“British O'Neill was historically little more than a Geographical [sic] term to denote people of the British Isles”

Irish, anon, was little more than a geographical term to denote people from the island of Ireland. Nationality is a modern invention you do realise?

“80 per cent of the Irish disowned this term back in 1921. In the eyes of most people in Britain, Ireland was lost from the Union in '21 and NI is merely the crumbs from the Irish table.”

Was there a referendum on ownership of the term British in 1921? I have never heard of such a thing. I do not entirely understand what point you are attempting to make in the other sentence. I have never heard anyone in Britain refer to Northern Ireland as crumbs from a table.

“What exactly "Britishness" is in Unionist eyes not many in Britain or Ireland can comprehend.”

By ‘Unionists’ I assume that you mean Ulster unionists. Any type of identity is an elusive concept which will mean different things to different people. I would imagine that many Ulster unionists define their Britishness in terms which others would recognise.

“I think many Unionists fantasise it bestows some royal dust on you.”

I don’t know what ‘royal dust’ is and necessarily therefore I have no fantasies about such a substance. I would contend that very few unionists have fantasies about ‘royal dust’.

“But apart from reverence for the monarchy then British "values" are no different to American or French values.”

So we’ve segued to values? Ok. British, French and American people may or may not share values. I do not know what that is supposed to prove. There are certainly differences in the values enshrined in the three states. Britain has a strong and proud tradition of social security – the Unites States does not. Britain however shares a more convivial attitude toward the market economy with the United States, whilst France is more inclined toward state interference in economic affairs. These are mere examples. The differences are legion.

“They are predominantly christian democratic values not exclusive to any Western nation.”

There are values which are shared by most democratic countries which have been traditionally Christian. There are usually differences in outlook between these countries as well.

“I respect Unionists, I think you have much to offer a unified Ireland.”

On the contrary you appear to think that the British identity which unionists claim is some sort of fantasy. That does not denote respect. You specifically allege that unionists lack self-respect later in your post. You also allege that we have no pride.

“But I find it sad that you all know very well that most people in Britain don't give a damn about NI and yet still cling to a Union with a country whose people don't even want you.”

Firstly there is no evidence that the people of Britain want Northern Ireland to secede, quite the reverse. Secondly the constitutional position is dependent on the people of Northern Ireland wanting to remain part of the UK.

“If you've actually lived in Britain as I have you'll know that.”

I have lived in Britain and whilst people do not go about their daily business celebrating Northern Ireland’s inclusion in the UK, neither do they bemoan it. Most people take it as a given in my experience. No-one has ever questioned my Britishness or my right to be part of the UK when I’ve been on the British mainland.

“It's pointless behaviour, and only complete Irish independence will give you back your pride and self respect.”

What did you say about respecting unionists? My pride and self-respect are fine thanks. Specifically I am proud to call myself Northern Irish, I am proud to call myself an Irishman and I am proud to be a British citizen and to live in the UK. I can only assume be Irish independence you are referring to a united Ireland. That would deprive me of 3 of the things I am proud of. Remaining within the United Kingdom I can be proud of all four of these aspects of myself.

“No doubt you'll still argue over the colour of sh-t with fellow Irish people but at least Ireland will be a complete country again.”

Ireland was a complete country within the Union.

“People in Belgium and Switzerland aren't all culturally the same either but they share the same country so they get on with it.”

This is an interesting comment given your previous scepticism regarding the British identity. People in the United Kingdom are not all the same, but we share the same state and get on with it.

“Ulster Protestant history is a fundamental part of Irish history”

Naturally. Ulster is part of Ireland.

“but only a tiny peripheral part of British history.”

Britain is a bigger island than Ireland. The United Kingdom has a longer and richer history as a state. Unionists here have our local history, but we share with others the broader history of the United Kingdom and the history of these islands.

“In Ireland you are an intrinsic part of the nation, in the UK you are of no significance to 60 million in Britain.”

Actually Northern Ireland is an intrinsic part of the UK.

“If your case is so strong, Unionists should head South [sic] and bring the Unionist gospel with them. If it's so convincing why should you not gain cnverts [sic] in the 26? Why do 80 per cent of people on this island still want independence? All anti-Brits, or all 21st century realists?”

I believe that the principle of consent, which is the bedrock of unionism, has been accepted almost unanimously in the Republic of Ireland.

O'Neill said...

Anonymous,
Chekov has dealt most comprehensively woth most fo your points here, I'll just add another couple:

1.But I find it sad that you all know very well that most people in Britain don't give a damn about NI and yet still cling to a Union with a country whose people don't even want you.

Can we have statistical evidence of that "fact" please?

If you check my previous comment, you'll see that I have listed the results of a survey which contradicts directly your statement.

2."People in Belgium and Switzerland aren't all culturally the same either but they share the same country so they get on with it."

Google Belgium and check what has been going on there in the last couple of years- it blows your point here completely out of the water.

Anonymous said...

Is Belgium partitioned, O'Neill? Come back to me when it is. And the differences between them is far greater than between Irish Nationalists and Unionists.

A GUARDIAN survey in 2001.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2001/aug/21/northernireland.northernireland1

"A verdict to strike a chill through Ulster unionism comes in today's Guardian/ ICM poll, which finds more Britons think Northern Ireland should be part of a united Ireland than believe it belongs in the United Kingdom.
In a finding that hits at the very heart of unionist ideology - which regards the province as an integral part of the UK - 41% of Britons believe Northern Ireland should be joined with the Irish republic while only 26% say it should continue as part of the UK.

For unionists, many of whom consider themselves British and refer to Britain as "the mainland", today's findings amount to a cold shoulder from their fellow citizens. Only one in four wants the province to stay part of the country."

Belittle the article all you want, boys and girls. It's there in black and white. Not that the REALITY of rejection in a Guardian survey from the "mainland" will bother all Unionists. As long as they're getting one over the Fenians many Unionists are blissfully happy.

The 6 counties is the Irish Sudetenland. Ultimately it'll be given back to the people who it so obviously belongs to. Like all things in Anglo/Irish history it'll be a drawn out affair.

O'Neill said...

And the differences between them is far greater than between Irish Nationalists and Unionists.

Really?
How many have died in the struggle between the two ethnic groups there?

Check the date on your Guardian Survey and the one I've provided, tell me which one is the most up to date?

As long as they're getting one over the Fenians many Unionists are blissfully happy.

*Yawn*.
And with that little gem, I find out finally that I've wasted valuable time debating with a troll.

Bye.

Anonymous said...

Oh it's not true is it not, O'Neill. No doubt you regard yourself as a liberal Unionist.

Your problem is you turn a blind eye to the less savoury aspect of Unionism as evidenced by Sammy Wilson after England played Ireland at Croke Park for the first time in rugby.

Mr Wilson, that "respectable" Unionist politician who was at Croke Park for the game, said that he has experienced the perfect weekend. One naturally assumed he meant Ireland beating England at rugby.

But no, Unionist Sammy said that Rangers beating Celitc and God Save the Queen being sung at Croke Park was the source of his perfect weekend joy. No mention of Ireland beating England.

But of course Sammy is rare among Unionists, that's why his party is full of bigots like himself. And the liberal Unionists pretend they don't exist because the deeper truth about Ulster Unionism is too dark for liberals to delve in to.

Chekov said...

Whilst I am no fan of Sammy Wilson, and whilst I would take great issue with describing him as a 'liberal unionist' I would suggest that he may have been enjoying what we on planet Earth refer to as 'a joke'.

Anonymous said...

You'd have to be on another planet, Chekov, to try and deny Sammy Wilson is a warped little man who despises all things Gaelic on his native island.

So no he wasn't joking; but it's easier of course to pass it off as a joke rather than accept how badly it reflects on Unionist mindsets like that of little Sammy.

Chekov said...

"You'd have to be on another planet, Chekov, to try and deny Sammy Wilson is a warped little man who despises all things Gaelic on his native island"

Despising things that are Gaelic has nothing to do with his attitude to the Irish rugby team. Rugby has nothing to do with gaelic culture.