Wednesday, 17 December 2008

No requirement for London neutrality on Union

Thanks to Gary who drew to my attention this nasty little editorial from Irish American interest newspaper ‘Irish Voice’. Lauding the DUP / SF carve-up, Niall O’Dowd refers to the accord between Conservatives and Ulster Unionists, preposterously, as a ‘potentially sinister development’. It is an article which revisits a series of common nationalist misapprehensions as to the nature of the Belfast Agreement already examined on Three Thousand Versts. Additionally, it highlights a phenomenon which has always been observable but has become increasingly apparent since the Conservative / UUP accord. The most conventional nationalists are much more comfortable, much less disorientated, by the DUP’s little Ulster sectional ‘unionism’ than the inclusive pan-UK vision which will be advanced by the new political force.

There is little point in reprising arguments which I have made exhaustively in previous pieces. The crux is that the British government is not required to maintain neutrality on the question of Northern Ireland’s constitutional position. Ironically, for many years nationalists urged governments in Westminster to become ‘persuaders’ for a united Ireland. Indeed the Labour party’s stated position until the mid 1990s was ‘unity by consent’. Now we are told that neutrality is a cardinal virtue (although evidently not for the Republic’s government). The British government must simply uphold the principle of consent and accept the decision of the people of Northern Ireland as to what the province’s constitutional status should be.

Peter Brooke’s ‘selfish strategic or economic interest’ remark, which it turns out nationalism so prized, was self-evidently nonsense from the moment it was conceived. At the time it served a purpose, stilling apprehension amongst nationalists, but it was always based on an insoluble paradox. There is a clear framework now by which Northern Ireland’s governance and constitutional status will be guided. Nonsensical comfort blankets should no longer be needed, much less when they cause sharp offence to one side of the constitutional argument.

This morning O’Neill highlights virulent DUP rhetoric aimed at Westminster. With Sinn Féin and the greener elements of the SDLP, Weir’s party represents Northern Ireland adrift from London, adamantly opposed to its interest. Therefore nationalism finds it is increasingly comfortable with the DUP and strongly suspicious of an alliance which offers people here direct participation in the government of the United Kingdom.


O'Neill said...

Slightly off topic, but there's a classic letter in the same publication that gives you some idea of the intellectual level of its readership:

"Letters to the Editor / British Cancer

The British have been nothing - repeat, NOTHING! - but a cancerous presence in Ireland. Anyone who thinks otherwise, including letter writer Patrick O'Reilly, columnist John Spain and anyone else, has rocks in their head.

The sooner Ireland is united, the better for everyone involved. A small country like that should never have been divided.

The British have pursued the Irish for purely selfish means, and the time has come for it to stop.

Ireland for the Irish, and not for the British!"

So says:
John P. McDermott of
Arlington, Virginia

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm Irish, have every right to live here as I have done all my life and WISH to have this part of Ireland remain firmly within the United Kingdom! Indefinately. Wonder where I fit in with this utopian nationalist Ireland!!

fair_deal said...

"This morning O’Neill highlights virulent DUP rhetoric aimed at Westminster."

No it was aimed at the poor governance and lack of accountability that direct rule and selling the practical benefit of devolution. In a DR situation it is highly likely the money would have simply went back to the Treasury so we would even be debating how best to shape such a package.

Funny how when others sing the praises of devolution and call NI special or there are no charges of nationalism.

"I recognise, of course, that within the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland has its own special needs and priorities.

Yes we're a party of the Union, but we need to make devolution work...

There is no question of me seeking to impose ideas from London

That's not the way I work and it's not the way we do things in Scotland or Wales either.

I believe in making devolution work head, heart and soul."

David Cameron UUP Conference.

Chekov said...

FD you can add Weir's comments to a long-list of 'squatters', 'Brits' etc. Let me remind you exactly what he said,

"fly-by-night direct ruler, with their own English, Scottish or Welsh constituency never could."

A bit beyond simply highlighting the merits of devolution.

Darren J Prior said...

I think the Anonymous poster hit the nail on the head. If I was a Unionist I would accept that I am Irish as well as British and politely point out to the people in the Republic that they are British as well as Irish.

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