Current Affairs Politics

Documentary: A Federal Ireland? The View From 1978

With the distinct possibility that the country is moving towards parallel referendums on the question of reunification within the next several years, here is an interesting documentary on the subject from the archives of Thames Television in Britain. First broadcast in 1978, and presented by journalist Peter Taylor, Federal Ireland?” features several well-known political and revolutionary figures from the era, notably Garret FitzGerald, John Hume, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and John Taylor. It also includes the cogent observation by the then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, that a sustained and lasting peace in Ireland is all but impossible as long as Britain’s territorial presence remains in the north-east of the island.

2 comments on “Documentary: A Federal Ireland? The View From 1978

  1. This video does display some subtle British bias against Federalism.

    There are probably ways that you can turn a Federal Ireland to your advantage. If some Ulster factions want Federalism next them, but in a positive non-vengeful way.

    One positive alternative to a Devolved/quasi Federal unit for what’s now Northern Ireland, might be to go by the traditional Provinces of Ulster, Leinster, Munster and Connacht. In this scenario the portions of Ulster that are now a part of the Irish Republic would be part of The Ulster Province in a Federal Ireland. Tradition and history would make it easy to portray honestly as a good faith proposal rather than some cynical game to cheat the Protestant Ulster community. During any celebration make sure that you highlight the fact, that you are celebrating not just the re-unification of Ireland but of Ulster as well.

    After all, why should only what’s currently Northern Ireland get all the fun? Do you want the current Irish Republic to end up in the same boat as England-currently left out while all the other nations have their own Parliament.

    Either way another thing to make sure of, is that any Federal Units are set up in such a manner that thin majorities don’t get to “call the music” either within the United and certainly not for any sway said Units have over the national government. The good news here would also be that Ireland’s existing Constitution should make this part pretty doable, but the some Unionist groups might try to exploit or create a loophole where they can run a local government in such a manner that they can still dominate Catholic and even non-conforming or more liberal Protestants within it, or with any share they have of national influence.

    Above all might want to sort of “puppy-dog proof” your election system against any tricks that some might try such as suppressing Catholic votes or Gerrymandering. Minimize any option of local control over elections before any such Federalism is proposed, so you aren’t playing defensive later on. If any loophole can be found in your Constitution for them to try and manipulate elections consider amending it out NOW.

    One issue that could come up in a Federal scenario might be education. While this could mean that you could contain some demands they might want such as making the study of Irish language voluntary or allowing study of Scots as an alternative, in the sense of limiting them strictly to Ulster, and this could carry the advantage of letting them feel like they can be themselves, without changing things for the rest of Ireland. They could also end up teaching history very, very differently form the way it’s done in the rest of Ireland (and/or other provinces). Profoundly different history teaching could reinforce some sources of contention between Catholics and Protestants.

    Naturally this is just a bunch of thoughts and suggestions. Take or it leave it.


  2. “try to manipulate elections” Hate the auto-correct, as it even flubs my grammar and spelling at times!!!


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