Current Affairs Politics

Mary Lou McDonald: “A United Ireland Will Happen Within A Decade”

I’ve some mixed views on the British journalist Owen Jones, who cleaves a little bit too much to the censorious tendency in contemporary left-wing Anglo-American politics for my liking, but I’d certainly recommend subscribing to his new YouTube channel which has featured some interesting guests over the last few weeks. Notable among these was the egregious former tabloid newspaper editor turned paragon of virtuous middle-ground political commentary, Piers Morgan, who gave Jones a challenging time in a largely polite debate about the socio-cultural upheavals facing Britain and other Western nations.

The latest interview on the Google platform is with the Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and though mainly consisting of softball questions the friendly style does give one of the most prominent republican figures in the country the space to express her views on Irish electoral politics, the twin crises of Brexit and Covid-19, and her belief that a reunification referendum will take place before the end of the decade.

10 comments on “Mary Lou McDonald: “A United Ireland Will Happen Within A Decade”

  1. ANOTHER SF “united Ireland” timeline prediction! The last one I remember was by 2016 — I can’t remember whether that was Adams or McGuinness. Wasn’t there a ten-year one from the Good Friday Agreement also?

    Either the British ruling class want to leave the colony or they don’t. If they want to, they had their chance in 1914, 1921, a number of times since and again in 1968.69. What is remarkable is how grimly they have held on to it, imperiling their reputation around the world, changing laws right, left and centre, bringing in internment without trial, suspending inquests, carrying out massacres, running Loyalist assassination squads and Army assassination squads (including one in Gibraltar), being convicted of torture in the Court of Human Rights and running terrorist bombing operations in the Twenty-Six Counties. And more.

    They have no intention of leaving and people who say they have are either lying through their teeth to fool others or are fooling themselves.


    • It might be that not all member of the British ruling class-or more precisely British power players- see this the same way. After all, 100 years have now passed since 1914-1920, that equates to two changes of Monarch, several PMs and plenty of generational turnover among the power players, not to mention social changes or the possibility of individual changes of heart.

      It could well be the case that the ability of the DUP to help the Tories keep their dominance of Parliament via that concept of supply and coalition govt. So a relatively small regional party has the power to be the “tail that wags the Tory dog”. It could well be that this has rather little to do with what most of the British elite, or power players, or the average Englishman actually wants!!!!

      Another possibility I can think of, is that people may fear the notion that by letting NI join the Republic that this will be seen as “betraying” those British soldiers who were veterans of the conflict. Indeed, many of those hip to European history may even fear “Dolchostosslegende creation” enough to want to hold NI against their better judgement. I know I have learned to dread a “Dolchstosslegende” just enough that I could see why somebody could act against their better judgement to avoid seeing one created. I don’t approve and would like to believe that I wouldn’t do that. However, there is reason to believe that even Henry Kissinger advised things against his better judgement, because he feared “Dolchstosslegende creation”-he knew the consequences of that all too well, but like a Greek tragedy those very decisions might have help sow the seeds of a Dolchstoss.


  2. First up glad you’re back ASF! Second, I thought that a curious one re within 10 years. I’m not as sceptical as DB in the comment above, but 10 years to get to a successful UI referendum. Seems optimistic.


    • Thanks, WbS. I’m not quite back, work life is too crazy for that, but I’m trying to dip a toe in every now and again. I miss writing the blog. It’s good for my political mental health! 😉

      Yes, I though that. But then again, we have former Alliance member and current MLA Trevor Lunn predicting a referendum within five years. So it could be a case of “bouncing” governments and legislators into a border poll by creating the political and cultural environment where it seems inevitable even if it isn’t actually inevitable. It’s that old trick of making something seem so certain to happen that people then make it certain to happen. On one level I don’t object to that, if that is the strategy. On the other hand, you better have a plan in place for when the strategy reaches fruition.

      That said, Mary Lou was honest enough not to expect northern voters to swap the NHS for the HSE if faced by a border poll. That is clearer thinking than normally seen from SF on this matter.


  3. One thing I will give her credit for, is the caution in assigning credit or blame to various governments over the whole Covid-19 thing. This virus is still under 1 year old, and there’s a lot of unknowns.

    I know I have a strong suspicion that there are a number of cofactors that influenced which countries had a rough pandemic versus those that got off fairly lightly. Germany for example, managed to keep the virus well controlled with surprisingly little in the way of restrictions. Much of that certainly was a great testing system, but could there be something else? Also why did Italy and Spain take it so hard? Where was the epic fuck-up on the part of the Italian and Spanish governments?

    One good candidate would be air pollution and the effects it has on the respiratory and systematic immune system. There is some research that shows a correlation between fine particulates and the R0 of the virus, and between NOx and the percentage of infected who develop AARDS, severe respiratory distress or die.

    Other possibilities include the different combinations, coverage level, and timing of certain live vaccine, bacterial antigen vaccines, and others along with the level of exposure to certain other rarely-fatal infections in different countries and parts of the world. Other possibilities include any number of things that might influence the immune system and/or involve the relatively level of ventilation and indoor-closed windows vs outdoor or open window time.


  4. Yes Ireland may very well be united in the not too distant future. United and a part of a an open a free Europe with the bitterness of British rule but a memory.

    And by comparison to a United Ireland across the water the UK has just announced that it’s preparing to send four British gun boats and helicopters to intercept, board and arrest French fishermen post the Brexit exit in a few days time.

    What absolutely incredible jingoism from a belligerent busted flush of a faded power. France is not Argentina. It is a modern well equipped EU nation with a splendid military which incidentally has an independent nuclear deterrent.

    And save for the nuclear option I don’t think Britain would find the German military a push over either. In fact the whole concept of Britain threatening gun boat diplomacy is an absolute nonsense. But of course Britain sees Europe as the enemy, and whilst the announcement of gun boats may have been for domestic public consumption, there is European domestic public consumption too, and such behaviour escalates division and hostility.

    One thing is certain, Britain is now a rogue nation off the shores of mainland Europe and the EU are well advised to recognise that and proceed accordingly. Maybe not a hot war, but almost certainly Britain is now at war with Europe – economically, socially and culturally.

    And if they think President Biden will send Liberty ships to bail them out they have another thing coming.


  5. Grace, of course the British ruling class are not monolithic, as the struggles around “Home Rule” showed. But that just makes my point stronger since the motivation to hang on to Ireland or a piece of Ireland has always won through (and did so through four monarchs in the timeline I quoted).

    What needs to be done is to accept that is the case and try to figure out what it is that makes hanging on so important to them. When we know that we can figure out how to deal with it. I believe it is the Union but that’s just a guess since I can’t see what else it might be except perhaps strategic position (and that consideration has been there since Elizabeth 1st). The Union and far-flung patches is probably what guarantees them continued use of one of the five Permanent Seats at the UN Security Council.

    Thinking about that is a more useful exercise it seems to me than blandly assuming unification by some mystical process or an imagined British ruling class wish to leave. Or deluding ourselves by wishful thinking.


    • Given the size of Northern Ireland the the presence of the larger Republic? It’s hard to see what glorious geopolitical advantage would come of that. Indeed hanging on to all of Ireland only made sense as a geopolitical advantage if one thinks a war with Continental Europe with hostile troops coming from Spain or to a lesser extent France is a real possibilities. As long as the EU remains intact that remains “unlikely barring a war between Europe and Morocco!!!!

      After a certain point, even THAT strategic angle would be undermined after 1798 General Cornwallis’s “military redemption” in putting down the Irish rebels. Once it became clear that most of Ireland would never want to be ruled by the UK and in the century later that ex-British colonies could form good relationships with the UK after all, then there was an instant case for saying a friendly ally across the Irish Sea would provide more security than a resentful and rebellious colony.

      As for the motivation of “wanting to hold on to Ireland” winning out, it seems more precise to say that the factions who wish to hold on to part of Ireland are what keeps winning.

      Given the British system for forming Party Coalitions, it seems even with my imperfect understanding that the DUP is a very, very convenient number of seats who will always chose to side with Tories and never with Labour. This could also account for Tory resistance to the pre-Troubles Catholic Civil Rights Movement. With mostly Protestants voting in the area that whole area was a lock for the DUP and thus a very reliable “chess piece” for Conservative Coalitions. If this is the case the relevant science is not psychology or even political economy but one of discrete mathematics and strategy!!!!

      Another possibility I can think of is that some power players just don’t want some information in the hands of The Republic of Ireland. It could be with all the scandals associated with The Troubles that handing over the North could mean that “inquiries” into certain people’s (politicians, military officers and more) conduct would not longer be in the hand’s of Westminster, but open for another country to investigate.

      If that’s the case motives could include things like not wanting certain institutions, one’s family members, members of one’s military unit, or “public” school mates disgraced. (The British military and “public” schools are un-fucking-believable at promoting in group loyalty. Maybe that’s what happens when you separate them from parents so young!!) It could also go to my point about “fear of creating a Dolchstosslegende”- a fear I understand very well, even if there are things it can’t justify.

      In it’s the DUP seats in Parliament that’s the hold up, then the best strategy might be encouraging very high-turnout among non-DUP voters and perhaps seeing if you can win the hearts and minds of those who vote for the DUP not because they love the party but because culturally and socially feel like they have no choice.

      If it’s about fear of getting the Dirty Secrets of British Instittuions during The Troubles brought to light, the best strategy would be to see them all brought into the open so that motive is dead anyway. One way would to be to encourage Hibernian symps in the UK, to push for more laws and reform along the lines of transparency, freedom of information and such. That could be a good strategy because not only would it clean out some dank closets all over the UK, but any reformist in the UK would have good reasons to support it. What progressive in any Democracy doesn’t want more government transparency? I’ve traveled a bit any never met such a person.


      • Seeing occupation of a part of Ireland as based on Conservative alliances should be left to social democratic illusions, I feel. It was a Labour Government that sent in the British troops in in 1969. It was a Labour Government that brought in the Prevention of Terrorism (or the Terrorise the Irish Community) Act in 1974 and, in five separate trials, framed and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment nearly a score of innocent Irish people.

        Also, since 1922, although there have been 14 Conservative governments, there have been nine Labour ones.

        As to strategic positioning it is important to realise that Britain is an island and its navy and airforce its strongest defence (and often in aggression abroad too). The Six Counties provide not only bases to its north-west but also a pressure on Ireland itself not becoming a potential threat either directly or in some alliance.

        Scoffing at the future potential of British war with a European power seems irrational considering there were two in the last century alone but also wars can come from further afield more easily in modern times.

        Then there there is the possible breakup of the Union and the loss of the UK’s (the UK’s, note, not England’s) Permanent Seat on the Security Council of the UN (where the decisions on carving up the World are ratified).

        I cannot pretend to read the minds of the British ruling class and can only speculate, as can any other. But I prefer to base my speculation on observable actions in older and recent history, rather than the wishful thinking of leaders of Sinn Féin or their followers.


        • As for the comment about 14 Conservative Govt and 9 Labour ones? While it is true that the UK has very, very little separation of powers and that at least theoretically the ruling party has large Free Reign until an election is called or they lose confidence, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the DUP-Conservative Alliance finding some other forms of “leverage” even when a Labour government is in power.

          The simple fact that Conservative Govts outnumber Labour governments to that degree implies some leverage in terms of not just the “territory” and “game” aspects of modern British politics, but also winning over the “hearts and minds” of certain voting blocs.

          In my experience a certain population with eerily similar mentality, attitudes and political behavior to Ulster Unionists (namely White Southerners in the US) is that it has an amazing knack for finding ways to *make* political leverage even in the face of social change and partisan realignment.Though I’m not as good at reading British politics, sometimes I get a sense that Unionists excel at it too. I wouldn’t be surprised if the DUP is twisting a variety of Tory and even Labour arms and breathing down the necks of a number of politicians from all ends.

          As for Britain getting into a war with Continental Europe? Well the EU WAS -despite notable “mission creep” – created to prevent another European war. Seeing how when Europe has a war, the world gets dragged into it, I’d say every human on the planet has SOME vested interest in the project!!!

          Still for holding onto even the whole of Ireland providing any major advantage it would have to involve an attack either from the Americas, from Iceland, or from Western Europe countries (France, Spain, Portugal), or from North Africa or at least some power that would be coming through those places. Otherwise, there isn’t really any route into Britain where they’d have to come through Ireland first. That is the WHOLE island of IReland. NOrthern Ireland alone doesn’t provide any buffer at all, since they’d have to come through either the Republic or England or Scotland to even reach the North.

          As for who Ireland would ally with the threatens the UK? Who would that be other than the EU (who I doubt even the most extreme Brexiteers want war with), Morocco (unlikely given the current position on Western Sahara) or the US and Canada.

          The simple presence of bases in NI, doesn’t strike me as a plausible geopolitical advantage for the UK……Indeed if anything friendlier relationships with Ireland would seem a much better strategy.

          As for losing its seat in the UN Security Council? For the UK to break up they’d need to see Wales and Scotland leave as well. Even if that happened it’s not hard to imagine the Seat simply being passed to England. After all France has a seat too. So being a Union of Four Kingdoms doesn’t seem like a pre-req, as all the other such seats belong to Republics.

          I can’t read minds either. However, I suspect the situation is much more prosaic than the deep dark secrets of the British “ruling class”. I believe certain alliances one or both major parties can’t afford to see broken and/or a fear of spilling certain state secrets. (Britain is awfully secret obsessed for nation with an elected govt!!!) are the most likely places to look.

          Connected to both could be a genuine fear of creating a “Dolchstosslegende”. If one solely focuses on “what the ruling class is thinking” it could be hard to appreciate how scary having a Dolchstosslegende in your country can be and why. Certainly a United Ireland could lead many veterans of The Troubles and their families to scream that they had been “stabbed in the back”. I would tremble at the possibly if I were Engish….especially in a Brexit context.


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