“This blog travels to Wales on Tuesday – to Swansea – to speak to the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly. I will tell that forum that while (sic) Irish republicans want our rights, we do not seek to deny the rights of anyone else. We want justice for all and privilege for none.”
A paragraph which teaches us, not only that the Provos’ president is scheduled to address BIPA’s latest plenary session this morning, but that Gerry Adams has taken to describing himself, in the third person, as a ‘blog’.
‘The blog’ has, in recent months, been on a veritable world tour promoting ‘Irish unity’. Slugger O’Toole has a preview of what he (it?) will say on the latest leg, other than, presumably, “HELLO SWANSEA!”.
Two passages in particular jump out from amongst the leaden, Orwellian Shinnerspeak which ‘the blog’ intends to deliver. In deference to the ‘east-west’ sensibility of the Assembly, they allude to Britain and to unionism (although never the twain shall meet). Brace yourselves.
“The peoples of Britain have a duty to themselves, to unionists in particular, to the Irish in general and even to the world to stand up and speak their opinion on the issue of the reunification of Ireland.”
For the sake of brevity we’ll set pedantry aside and assume that ‘the blog’ means Great Britain rather than the state which is commonly known as Britain and that the unionists to whom he refers live in Northern Ireland. Otherwise we’re going to get into a whole confusing, talking to oneself tangle.
Suffice to say that, in a nationalist’s lexicon, ‘peoples’ rather than ‘people’ is in itself a loaded distinction. And evidently ‘the blog’ isn’t banking on the opinion spoken being that the ‘reunification of Ireland’ is a bad idea.
The Good Friday Agreement, which he is wont to cite amorphously, but reluctant to reference specifically, determines that constitutional change will rest upon the assent of the electorate in Northern Ireland. Ir is not dependent, you will notice, on a range of international opinion to be consulted at venues on a World Tour. I’d imagine the ‘peoples of Britain’ are, by and large, happy with that current arrangement.
‘The blog’ continues,
“We need to look at what they (unionists) mean by their sense of Britishness and be willing to explore and to be open to new concepts. We need to look at ways in which the unionist people can find their place in a new Ireland. In other words it needs to be their United Ireland.”
That, for the uninitiated, is ‘the blog’s’ concession to ‘reaching out’ to unionists. Alas it simply demonstrates that, for all his years in politics, he has been neither ‘looking’, nor listening, to date.
What unionists ‘mean’ by ‘their sense of Britishness’ is simply that they ARE British and wish to remain part of the United Kingdom.
A united Ireland which unionism owns would be, by definition, by necessity, part of the UK.
Without membership of the United Kingdom, or at least without the existence of an aspiration to become a member of the United Kingdom, unionism does not exist.
The sense in which ‘the blog’ uses the word ‘unionism’ is, effectively, a category error. He is using a political term to describe something of an entirely different character - an ethnic or ethno-religious group.
Ulster protestants might be reconciled, eventually, to an independent united Ireland, but unionists can not be, unless they are to renounce their unionism.
‘The blog’s’ inaccurate use of terminology should be excused. After all, even purported unionists often lazily employ ‘unionist’ as little more than an ethno-religious label.
More serious is the inference that unionists’ ‘sense of Britishness’ is not what it appears to be, or what unionists believe it to be. It could be anything, in fact, other than a genuine, legitimate political attachment to the United Kingdom. What it ACTUALLY is is yet to be determined (but 'the blog' is working on it).
In the comments zone at Slugger, Fair Deal speculates that ‘the blog’ is laboriously moving beyond a ‘false consciousness’ interpretation of Ulster unionism. I suppose that, insofar as his speech suggests that the philosophy is something freestanding, homegrown and worthy of consideration, rather than an aberration implanted by dastardly Brits, Sinn Féin’s President has edged forward.
If he is ever to realise his stated aspiration of equality, however, he will have to start taking unionists' aspirations at face value.