Since the United Kingdom’s violent imposition of partition in the early 1920s, the pro-union leaders of the Six Counties have been engaged in a rearguard action to save the last remnant of the UK’s former colonial state on the island of Ireland. All internal or external attempts to reform the disputed region, to establish parity of esteem between its two communities, between nationalists and unionists, has been fought tooth and nail by the representatives of “loyalism”. From the bloody reaction to the Irish civil rights movement in the late 1960s to the hysterical rhetoric against the country’s native language and culture in the 2010s, pro-union politics has proved itself incapable of voluntary change or revision. All the successes we have witnessed over the years, from the Fall of the Stormont Parliament in 1972 to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, came through the sustained application of military, political and diplomatic force against the loyalist bloc.
In very recent times we have watched that same history played out again and again and again before our eyes. Efforts to establish equality of symbolic representation in the shared city of Belfast resulted in months of violent “flags protests”, orchestrated by British terrorist factions and encouraged by the dominant Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and its minor rivals in the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV). During the lifetime of the power-sharing local Executive and Assembly at Stormont, reactionary pro-union groups repeatedly blocked and impeded movement on a host of progressive issues. In 2017’s regional election, the pugnacious leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, described the nationalist community, and in particular Irish-speaking men, women and children, in terms of voracious crocodiles which must be starved of sustenance. That same egregious ethno-sectarianism contributed to the previous year’s collapse of the inter-communal legislature and its failure to reconvene.
The last week has witnessed more of the same loyalist entrenchment, of battles fought in linguistic trenches as the Democratic Unionists scuppered hopes of a new agreement on Stormont power-sharing. And this because of their animosity to basic Irish language rights. Though some have sought to excuse away Arlene Foster’s harsh words and colonialist sentiment, to put the blame on her Sinn Féin opponents, let there be no doubt. This is a culture war created by a militant axis of unionist politicians and activists, of the DUP, UUP and TUV, with the booted hardmen of the Orange Order and the pro-UK gunmen of the UDA-UFF, UVF and RHC lurking in the background.
This is unionism in Ireland. An ideology wedded to colonial notions of communal supremacy, of the superiority of British culture over Irish culture, of the Übermenschen versus the Untermenschen on the island of Ireland. There is no other way to put it, no other excuse to offer. This is the ideology which brought us sixty years of a segregationist statelet in the north-east of the country and would do so again if given the opportunity. An opportunity some in the DUP now see in the form of Brexit and a “hard border”. An imposed Partition 2.0 for the early 2020s.
Ah well, their time is coming to an end. Once the results of Brexit start to bite, along with the march of time, a majority vote for re-unification will become more and more feasible.
It is to be hoped. Certainly Foster is doing a good job of stoking nationalist ire.
What struck me as well was that for once the finger of blame was pointed at the DUP. Perhaps neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things, but telling nonetheless.
The failure of the British, but more importantly, the Irish governments cannot be overlooked. I expect nothing but treachery from Theresa May, who owes her Government’s life to the DUP. But for the Irish Government yesterday not to issue a strongly worded condemnation in the face of typical Unionist sectarian hatred and animosity is just another tragic failure of successive Irish governments in selling out the people of the North. Again. Because Leo can’t be a leader. Again.
Yes. And Leo is also going to try to sell us all out by attempting to give May as easy a time with the border/Brexit problem as possible. Right-wingers stick together!
There is some rumbling today from Dublin on the issue of direct rule and expressions of surprise at the abrupt failure of the talks. Of course, the usual suspects in the Irish media have been quick try and excuse the DUP intransigence by trying to pin the blame on both SF and the DUP, when the evidence points to a DUP walkout when a deal was all but agreed.
The Dáil in 1919 set it self as an independent republic and ran a parallel government to the consternation and violence of the British occupying powers, the present SF acting as a rejected suitor to the odious DUP and you have to question if SF have the will or gumption to fight for a united Ireland, 100 years will have past in 2019 and the sacrifice of many patriots still is unfilled.
I think SF should be making equal marriage a red line along with Irish. Just on the political optics alone, Irish has domestic appeal but fighting for LGBTQ rights will play very well internationally. SF should state: no Irish, no equal marriage, no Stormont. Let the DUP take the hibernophobic and homophobic hit and play it for all its worth with the international press. Why put one of your sticks aside when it is of far more use hitting your opponents over the head with?
Pity the language has been made into a political football once again. Surely this is just another ‘flegs’ token issue? I don’t know, níl fhios agam, are there any native Irish-speaking communities in the six counties, aside perhaps from a few artificial ones set up with a purely political agenda?
There are thousands of people in the North who use Irish as their first language, and who use it every single day.
There is nothing artificial or political about it, just ordinary people living their lives.
By the same token there are probably many more Welsh-speakers living over the border in England, (in the same state no less!) but with no language rights there, yet no-one afaik has ever complained about it, since they have extensive rights over the border in Wales.
Why should there be a different rule over the water in Ireland, where you have two states? But for the moment at least, no real border.
Sorry, just a puzzled Brit 🙂
“Where you have 2 states”.
No we don’t have – we have one independent state.
The other state in our country is not our creation – it was forced into existence by your British state as a pay-off to the Orange Order for their services in trying to permanently imprison all of Ireland in the UK, a project which ended in abject failure. Why is why they carved out the dysfunctional, Apartheid, sectarian, colonial 6-county statelet in the north-east corner of our country.
That said it has as much legitimacy in the eyes of the Irish Nation as Apartheid South Africa had – and will go the same way.
By the way, when do you expect to see an independent Scotland ?
Most of the world – including Ireland – found it truly astonishing that any country would refuse independence when offered it on a plate.
Which is easier to believe – that the British Ruling class is incapable of deceit or that the Scottish Independence Referendum result was rigged.
IT WAS MOST CERTAINLY RIGGED …NOT TO MENTION THE BBC PROPAGANDA MACHINE SCAREMONGERING THAT PENSIONERS…THE BIGGEST VOTERS .WOULD LOSE THEIR PENSIONS….TO THEN DRAG SCOTLAND ..AGAINST THE WISHES OF 66% OF VOTERS…OUT OF THE EU…WASTEMONSTER AND THE EMPIRE’S LAST REMAINS…OH AND THE MALVINAS
You have just compared Irish speakers in the North to Welsh speakers in England: look closely at that. Can you not see the problem?
Irish speakers in the North are in their own country, at home, with fewer rights than Welsh speakers living in Wales. Theres the comparison you should have made- not to people who, for some reason, have left their own country behind and are prepared to accept the language rights of the new country that they have chosen.
Its not enough for me that Irish speakers in the South have rights. My children live here and use Irish every day of their lives. They are valid human beings who deserve to be equal to their English speaking friends, and they will be when we have an ILA.
I know of children who would be monolingual Irish-speakers in Belfast and Derry, at least for the first three or four years of their lives, but they would be a handful of kids, and through the deliberate intent of their parents. So I’m not sure if that would count as “native speaker” given the context?
It is much more than tokenism, though. Irish is the indigenous language of the island and a key symbol of Irish nationality. (Albeit perhaps a legacy one?).
The demand is for equality of national identities within “Northern Ireland”, and for better or worse, Irish is seen as a component of one of those identities.
Remember, the Irish language continues to be banned – literally cannot be spoken, heard or read – in the UK courts in the Six Counties and individuals can, and have been, arrested for speaking in Irish in very recent times. It is a current issue.
I’m sorry I haven’t so far been able to come back to some of the comments above. However, interestingly the ILA row has given rise to a consideration of the very different status accorded to Gaeilge, Gàidhlig and Cymraeg within the various parts of the UK. See here :
In essence the article points out that the Scottish Gaelic Language Act allows that language to be used when dealing with the devolved Scottish Parliament and all bodies and organisations that come under it’s remit, but NOT with organisations still governed directly by Westminster. This is not the case for Welsh. You can file your tax return or apply for a driving license in Welsh for example, but not through Gàidhlig which only applies to devolved matters. As for Irish, it would seem to be completely unrecognised (whether or not it deserves UK recognition is another question entirely!)
The writer would like to all the native minority languages given equal status throughout the UK, with their rights policed by a body or bodies independent from government. This would at the very least help to dissociate the languages from nationalism, and to that extent depoliticise them, (I wonder??)
And another UK spin-off that may be of interest, here :
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Time to deal with the Loyalists as they should be.
What we have now is a spineless carpet bagger of an irish leader, who utterly lacks the slightest signs of courage.
he will do what the Uk government tell him to do. He will not stand up for the rights of the irish people and the Irish constitution. So we need an emergency plan for the North.
A contingency plan must be developed, outside of the present Dublin government, by other political forces and organisations, that deals with the coming crisis.
Firstly, what are the weapons that an irish government would have at its disposal. ?
Well, quite a few.
Firstly they could deliver a severe ultimatum to the British government that unless the Northern problem is solved, they will be utterly intransigent and will veto any BREXIT agreement. (They have the power to do that.)
Secondly they can threaten the nuclear option, if the Northern problems are not fixed. This would be to say that the Uk Government has a year, to fix things, and if it does not, they will withdraw from the Peace treaties that ended the war in the North.
Thirdly they can say that they will also no longer support the Assembly, will have no dealings with it, if it goes into sittings again, and will deal only directly with the British government.
Fourthly, they will threaten to cease all security cooperation as well.
Fifthly, they can introduce a “hard Border” that conforms to the EU requirements to a border with a Non-EU state.
(They will probably be forced by the EU to do this anyway.
Sixth they can impose stringent border controls, that allow cross border traffic , only to Irish and foreign passport holders. They can also limit the number of border crossings.
Seventh: they can isolate the elethctric grid from the North, and stop all cross border cooperation with the British government.
Eighth: in the event of the UK government failing to achieve the required border arrangements with the South, they can stop all cross border commercial traffic.
Ninth: All of the above will be imposed, if required, but if no agreement can be reached, the irish government must insist that there is a referendum on reunification, which must be on a county by county vote basis. This would leave the Loyalists with just two counties voting unionist. Those counties that vote to leave must be allowed to join the South. This would stop the Unionist racists and fascists from getting any kind of significant seat in the Dail, and linking up with the Right wing parties in the South.
Effectively, an embargo, until the majority nationalist Counties are allowed to leave. nationalists living in those counties that remain, to recieve compensation and help, to move into the Republic, if they so wish.
At that point, the Unionist rump can be left to rot.
If all this sound mad, try a renewed war. that would be actually worse. Repartition two, is the only alternative to a new war, eventually. I hate the whole idea, but enough is enough. Comments?
In the event of a successful reunification vote, why not incorporate all the counties. Anyone who feels more British than Irish would then be welcome to b****r off back to England and stay there. I hope none of them come to Scotland though – we have enough Unionist creeps here already.
Sad to see the republic co-opted into vile and violent fantasies. We are content to play the fish a bit longer in the interests of peace. Yes, many of would like to see a united Ireland, but not at the expense of civil war. The contempt and hatred of the shinners toward Varadkar, and the disgusting references to him as a carpetbagger are not going to persuade anyone but existing SF supporters in the south. If that’s the approach, by all means let’s build a wall. We have no need of such bigotry in the republic. It will certainly not be a popular idea in a society that now, justifiably, takes some pride in his being the son of an Indian immigrant.
A better approach is to look for reconciliation and actively persuade unionists that they have nothing to fear in an united Ireland, instead of coercing them. They should still be able to get healthcare from the NHS, BBC on TV and to fly union flags, if that’s what floats their boat. As well as an Irish passport and whatever else we can offer besides the threat of violent assimilation. The writing is on the wall, there is no need to rub noses in it. At some point the demographics and the prosperity gap will make the result of a border poll a foregone conclusion. North of the border. It will not be a forgone conclusion in the south if we are faced with destabilisation we are expected to pay for in perpetuity, not just in NI but in the whole of Ireland. Thanks but we’ll wait.
Again: Do not co-opt us into suppression of unionism as soon as the opportunity arises. It is FOLLY and we will not agree. Where necessary we will join forces to protect what we value in common, starting with the rule of law. We know nationalists have been treated badly. Nevertheless, many of us feel that we should let it go in the interests of the future and of children’s future, and theirs in turn. The moral example that comes to mind is Nelson Mandela.
I watched Mr Campbell of the DUP on Newsnight on the subject of the Irish Language Act. He did himself and his community no favours. No effort AT ALL is required to make DUP intransigence look bad to the rest of the world. It’s inconceivable that the DUP will hold the balance of power in a Westminster parliament, as they do now, for very long, so there’s really no need to spit fire back at them. It’s like threatening an angry teenager having a tantrum.
If I lived in NI I would take to guerrilla humour as a response. Posters for Yogurt Currying Classes for Dummies, say. It’s hard to hate people who make you laugh and whom you are not afraid of.
Of course, such things will be anathema to the “drive them into the sea” brigade. Well, cry me a river.
It’s like a full menu of southern cluelessness, all the classic dishes are there, seasoned with the usual fear-driven self-satisfaction.