Current Affairs Politics

National Self-Determination – British Need Apply Only

The British Occupied North of Ireland
The British Occupied North of Ireland or the real Northern Ireland 48% Protestant, 47% British

Well there’s no surprise in the news that the vast majority of the people living on the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands have voted to remain under British rule in a referendum held yesterday. Apparently the British government believes that this act of democratic self-determination by the inhabitants of the territory will be central to Britain’s case under international law for continued claims of sovereignty over the islands.

Hmmm… if only the British had developed such a respect for democracy and self-determination at the start of the 20th century as they now claim to have at the start of the 21st century. Then perhaps they might have respected the wishes of the majority of the inhabitants of the Irish islands in their act of democratic self-determination in 1918. And 1921. But then of course the inhabitants of the island of Ireland and its islands were voting to be Irish not British; and Britain could never respect that. Well, not without a revolutionary war and several decades of intermittent conflict. And even then not without the partition of the island of Ireland and the establishment of the democratic anomaly that is the British Occupied North of Ireland.

Not so much the Pax Britannica as the Pax Hypocritica.

15 comments on “National Self-Determination – British Need Apply Only

  1. Succinctly put!

    We Scots are having our own problems with democracy, British-style, with the Orange Order in N. Ireland pledging themselves to the Unionist ‘Better Together’ campaign. This is foreign intervention in Scotland’s democratic process, in my view, and an antagonistic one at that.

    Some things never change!


    • Not to mention the likes of the UUP’s John Taylor and a few other Unionist and Tory grandees floating the idea of a partition of Scotland, with a new border running south of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Apparently that idea is enjoying some popularity in Unionist circles in the north-east of Ireland as a way of securing their communication links with the UK, retaining communal and cultural links to the Borders, bolstering the UK’s territorial claims in the Irish Sea, north Atlantic and over the n-e of Ireland, etc.


  2. Great article, I always think the same and I saw the same history in Ulster and in the Falklands, They did put the people there and now they said that they can decide!


    • Indeed. If self-determination is good enough for the people of the Falkland Island’s it is surely good enough for the people of the Irish island.


  3. Mekonged

    Thats a hell of a graphic there An Sionnach Fionn.
    Richard, have the Scottish Nationalists officially responded in anyway to these dangerous suggestions emanating from NE Ireland?


  4. It’s easy to hold let the natives hold a referendum when you know ahead of time the results are going to be favorable to your point of view.


  5. Seamus,

    On what basis did you generate the map? North Antrim is five to one Unionist, surely?


    • Hi Mick, apologies for the late reply, real life job and then a lot of blog-related message to get through. The illustration is a broad representation of the geographical spread of a majority British “nationality” in the north-east of Ireland, illustrating the way it has withdrawn further and further into an eastern coastal enclave with the odd salient running off into Derry, Armagh, etc. There are plenty of areas that could be disputed and it is not intended to be 100% geographically or demographically correct more of a impression of the way things stand.

      Based on original maps from Bangordub’s site, Ulster Is Doomed and some others. Will provide a link when I get home, firewall here plays havoc with java items running on the blog or use of HTML codes.


      • Mick Fealty

        You do some great work Seamus, but this is not trend, it’s a map that assumes: 1, that Catholic equals assent for a new Republic; 2, that any electoral unit which shows even the slightest Catholic Majority can be scaled up to max the extent of Irish ‘ownership’…

        That’s like eating your lunch at ten o’clock and expecting it to still be there at one. Or something. 😉


        • Fair points, Mick. However I incline to BD’s view that “Northern Ireland” was created on the basis of a Protestant religious headcount, with the calculation that such a count equated with an ethnically British population (not quite true of course, as my own family history can testify to). Today that count can be calculated more accurately through ballot box returns and the Census returns. A “Protestant state for a Protestant people” is now 48% of the population of the north-east region with a 47% British “nationality”, and more or less represented as a local majority in the areas shown on the graphic.

          Of course the Unionist/Union-leaning vote is greater than the figures above since, arguably, that vote is in part a socio-economic one rather than an ethno-national one (people voting pro-Union or not voting at all to maintain the status quo – and the “cold peace”). However one might argue that 52% of the population declining to tick a British nationality implies a certain softness there (even allowing for non-nationals, etc.). Though, like others, one ponders the “Northern Irish” group (ethnically Nationalist, socio-economically Unionist?).

          I’d say the graphic was more like a lunch-menu. The promise of good things to come? 😉


          • You say that, but if the 1918 general election provided a legitimisation of the war for independence, it also demonstrated that those living in the territory of Northern Ireland wasn’t going along with it.

            They did not do so on the basis that they were Prods, any more than southerners endorsed the Revolution on the basis that they were Catholic.

            Your map of 2013 shows just why they gave no consent to go along with the ‘national project’. You mean to do them and their cultural and political identity no good.

            The first post partition election at Stormont – in which SF participated – about half of Irish nationalist voters were still of a home rule/Redmondite disposition.

            We’ve just had a war in which a Republican leadership promised the end of British rule in our lifetimes. Each bullet was a countdown to them leaving.

            The long peace is a very different kettle of fish from a long war. Bulletins and continued tribalisation of politics only prolongs the struggle rather than foreshortens it.

            So this is yer lunch! You are just choosing to eat in virtual terms rather than work for it slowly and in reality. Understandable after the instant gratification of war.

            But, in my view, you underestimate the degree to which you need Protestent consent even to get a majority of Catholics to go for political unification.


            • I actually don’t mean you personally mean them no good. But that that is what the map communicates. Cultural obliteration. The co-option of unionist areas into the map further communicates you may be in a hurry to get it down.


              • Yes, however there was no “Northern Ireland” in 1918. There was the single geo-political entity of the island of Ireland where the majority of the voting-population voted in favour of Irish Republican and Irish Nationalist parties (Sinn Féin, IPP, Labour, Republican-Labour). That democratic mandate was bolstered by two local government elections and another general election in 1920 with the numbers favouring explicitly Irish Republican parties increasing. Do the three people in the Falkland Islands who voted against continued British rule get to partition the islands from the other couple of thousand who voted in favour?

                There is an argument to be made that northern Nationalists, through their loyalty to the old Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) and the AOH, sealed their own fate. It’s unlikely that An Dáil would have passed the Treaty in 1921/22 without substantial amendments if there had been a greater representation of Ulster TDs. The Pro-Treaty side would have needed to take into account their fears and wishes. The bitterness (and violence) of the struggles between SF/IRA and the IPP/AOH in Belfast, Derry and Tyrone certainly influenced some people’s attitudes within the broader movement towards the north-east.

                It is also worth remembering the contacts between Éamon de Valera and Craig and the substantive concessions offered by An Dáil. The British Unionist minority were offered limited autonomy for “North-East Ulster” within an independent Ireland. Effectively Ulster home rule. That offer remained on the table for many years thereafter. Unionist turned it down flat. They were also offered de facto federation under the Council of Ireland. Again, dismissed out of hand.

                What was offered to the British Unionist minority at the start of the 20th century remains on offer at the start of the 21st century. Autonomy for the north-east of Ireland with all the rights of regional self-government, policing, justice and education, and explicit recognition of the identity of the Unionist minority in whatever form they deem fit. And all within the context of a reunited Ireland. The Belfast Agreement in reverse and no different from regional rule in Spain, Germany, Belgium, etc. The European norm in fact.

                In the world of realpolitik there will be a substantive section of the Unionist population which will never accept a vote for reunification. They can never be won over and they may well be in the majority in their community. The best we can hope for is to persuade Nationalists in the very broadest sense of the word (cultural, political, ethnic, etc.) that reunification serves their needs better. If we can bring the undecideds, the indifferent, the stay-at-homes and the maybe persuadable along with them all the better.

                The thing is, while some see the Belfast Agreement as the here-now-and-forever I disagree. It is a plaster on an open wound. Sooner or later it is going to start to peel. In fact that process has already begun. The only question is how do we manage the process of its removal. Do we do it cleanly and by choice or do we simply allow it to fall off with all the attached risks. And then, what do we do after that? Another bigger, better plaster? Or do we sew up the wound and allow it to finally heal?

                As an Irish Republican I see things as a linear progression. There is no full stop.

                Anglo-Irish Agreement + Belfast Agreement + ? Agreement + ? Agreement = Reunited Ireland

                Unionists on the other hand see things very differently. To them each settlement is the final settlement. This far and no further. They are wrong.

                Apologies if that is a bit blunt. I actually understand and appreciate your view on the north-eastern part of Ireland. It is an entirely honourable one. And post-reunification it may well be the correct one. But, in my opinion (for what it’s worth!), not yet.


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