Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Flagging Labour will be replaced by a government with a different outlook

I believe the government’s scheme to introduce national ID cards represents a colossal waste of money and should be scrapped as soon as possible. I am not, therefore, unduly excited by Labour’s decision to omit the Union Flag from the card, as a sop to nationalists in Northern Ireland. Jeffrey Donaldson is rather more exercised by the issue and Irish News’ columnist, Fionnuala O’Connor, has trumpeted the flag’s omission as evidence of our tenuous links with the rest of the United Kingdom. Certainly, the government is failing to adorn a silly card with an appropriate symbol for equally silly reasons.

I have criticised O’Connor’s analysis before and the flaws which I have highlighted in her arguments are once again present in this piece. In common with many nationalists, two of her favourite devices are reading provisions into the Belfast Agreement which are not supported by the text and conflating equality of aspiration with equality of outcome. Whilst Labour has demonstrated its inclination to pander to such sensibilities, Cameron’s Conservatives show evidence of a clearer understanding of the British government’s responsibilities in Northern Ireland.

Contrary to nationalist claims, the Good Friday Agreement did not establish the right to hold either British or Irish citizenship. Prior to the agreement the Republic of Ireland was already granting passports to people from Northern Ireland. The document, which was endorsed by referendum in both Irish jurisdictions, certainly affirmed the existing situation whereby the Republic’s irredentist citizenship laws enabled it to grant, by default, residents of part of the UK Republic of Ireland passports.

However, the much cited (and rarely quoted) clause which ‘recognise(s) the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose’ certainly does not give explicit political effect to nationalists’ wish to conflate ‘Irish’ with the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland remains unambiguously part of the UK whilst a majority here supports the constitutional status quo. Giving effect to the principle of consent in terms of symbols and furniture of state does not prejudice, one iota, people’s ability to identify themselves as Irish.

On one hand O’Connor indulges her instinct to rubbish the ‘Britishness’ of Northern Ireland and maintain that the UK government does not regard it an integral part of the UK. On the other she expresses anxiety that the Conservatives will not be as ‘committed …. to parity of esteem”.
The irony is rich and Orwellian. By O’Connor’s prescription ‘parity of esteem’ involves depriving the people of Northern Ireland of their right to fully enjoy the constitutional status which they have chosen. Clearly some are more equal than others.

The author’s allusion to a Conservative government is instructive, because whilst she can’t resist the temptation to gloat, she seems to understand that her gloating is premature. The Tories are committed to affording Northern Ireland the national political participation which its membership of the United Kingdom should involve. That commitment won’t effect nationalists’ right to campaign for a different constitutional outcome, nor will it interfere with the expression of culture or perceived nationality. The people of Northern Ireland will remain soundly in charge of their own future, whether it is within the UK or not.


Timothy Belmont said...

I shan't be buying an identity card, unless they offer me one free.

I have a driving licence & a British passport, which is ample.

BTW, I see no valid reason why the image of the Union Jack shouldn't be used as an obvious means of identification or recognition on any card. It is certainly more recognizable, in an international sense, than the royal coat-of-arms.


O'Neill said...

Contrary to nationalist claims, the Good Friday Agreement did not establish the right to hold either British or Irish citizenship

I had one of my rare ventures into the parallel universe that is the Slugger's Comment zone to "argue" that point last week.

My only conclusion is that there are in fact 2 GFAs floating about out there.

The one I've seen reads the same as yours. When I informed the nationalst hordes on Slugger that the UK Nationality Act of 1981 (ie everybody born in the UK is from birth automatically a UK citizen) still applies in NI, I was told that it wasn't "relevant", "the GFA gives everybody in NI automatic Irish citizenship", "I'm not interested in all that legal nonsense, I know I'm Irish" and finally "nobody has the right to tell me I'm British".

I gave up and went for a beer in the end- I think Mick Fealty may have had a premonition of the quality of *debate* that would be on offer, the thread was entitled something along the lines of "Does the UK government think the Irish are stupid?"

Chekov said...

Here's a corker for you O'Neill. Unionists responsible for all the IRA's murders. Robert McCartney's family don't have a justifiable grievance because other Irish people have 'suffered'.

Gary said...

Is there any text about that you guys could point me towards that explicitly states that the Belfast Agreement does not supercede the UK Nationality Act 1981?

O'Neill said...

"Is there any text about that you guys could point me towards that explicitly states that the Belfast Agreement does not supercede the UK Nationality Act 1981?"

For the UK Nationality Act to no longer apply to NI then:

1. The full act needed to have been repealed (it wasn't).
2. There would have been a clause in the B.A saying that it no longer applies to NI (there wasn't).

The B.A says that it is now possible for people born in NI to regard themselves (ie their national identity) as British/Irish/both or neither but on citizenship it simply states that it is now possible to have both British and Irish citizenship-that "both" is the key word, ie it's not an "either/or". If you're born in NI you remain automatically a British citizen unless you ask the Home Secretary to revoke it.

Gary said...

Thank you O'Neill! Much appreciated.

Gary said...

Mind you have you seen the Wiki reference on it all? Beyond a joke. In fact anything to do with Northern Ireland is a joke on Wikipedia, it doesn't take much digging, for instance on the NI talk/discussion page to work out that there are forces at work giving a deliberate bias in one political direction for anything connected to NI and the troubles including citizenship in Northern Ireland. It is beyond the pale, if you'll excuse the cliche.

O'Neill said...

If you mean this wiki reference:
I think they've got the citzenship but largely correct

ironbed said...

Number one on any Unionist's agenda, is the flag fetish. But making inroads is the new National identity crisis brought on by the introduction of a credit card sized ID card, without the Union Flag. Yelp. It will be interesting to see how many of the Unionist population,who claim to be Irish,will actually accept the Irish version of the card. It's make your mind up time for Unionists who place so much emphasis on symbolism, be it, flag flying, kerb painting or bonfire a'lighting.

Sounds like Timothy Belmont will settle for which ever one is mailed out to him, so long as it's free. Well, that's a good start and makes sound Scotch Irish economical sense.

Meanwhile Chekov says "The people of Northern Ireland will remain soundly in charge of their own future, whether it is within the UK or not."
Yes,so long as some other Nation pays the bills, thereby keeping him in work/bru/dole.

It all smacks of defeatism as Unionists become more realistic.

Chekov said...

Ironbed - this isn't Slugger. Unless you're prepared to raise your level of argument above absurd generalisations you'll be deleted on sight.

Chekov said...

P.S. I note the ungodly hour you make these uncivil comments at (once again). A pattern emerging?

O'Neill said...

It's the school holidays, when the little imps are at home with their brain cells disengaged and too much time on their hands, could be another explanation for the high level of nonsense comments you're getting.

I've put on Comment Moderation permamently now, it's reduced readership numbers ever so slightly, but seemingly had no effect on the number of grown-ups, sane or sober folk wishing to post comments.

Chekov said...

I've been edging towards that solution myself O'Neill. You'll enjoy 'Crocko' on another thread.