Thursday, November 24, 2005


Thursday Thoughts: Repartition

I haven't commented yet on the big talking point of the week in Ireland's north - the reduction of district councils in the North from 26 to 7. According to the Secretary of State Peter Hain, the moves would simplify matters.

"For a place the size of Northern Ireland, 5,400 square miles with a population of 1.7m people, we are both over-governed and over-administered."

Hain added that it was "a people agenda, not a party agenda".

I disagree. I see this move as yet another sop to Sinn Féin.

Unionists have opposed the measure with the DUP leader Ian Paisley arguing that it will allow nationalists to pursue a United Ireland through the councils they control, however the SDLP believe it will only lead to increased division in the north of Ireland. It seems some within Sinn Féin feel the same as Sinn Féin this week suspended one of their councillors Francie Molloy who said the reduced number of councils amount to "a sectarian headcount".

There is a feeling among many that the councils in the counties adjacent to the Republic - Derry, Armagh and Fermanagh - will end up being dominated by nationalists and that Belfast council will end up this way too with the remaining three councils being dominated by unionists.

So then, what to make of these proposals? Well I think there are two things going on here.

First of all, quite clearly this is a forceful message from the Shinners and their British government pals to the unionists - get devolved institutions up and running again or else deal with this.

However there is a second thing going on here. A tactic that the Shinners know all too well - divide and conquer. Sinn Féin have been the political wing of a military war machine for decades now and for decades they defined their political tactics on a military strategy. They successfully managed to bring unionism to a point where the two main unionist parties were at each other's throats. By adopting this divide and conquer strategy, David Trimble and his Ulster Unionist party were reduced to a bumbling, incompetent mess which became associated with weakness and surrender in the eyes of many unionists. Now this divide and conquer strategy is being played out on an even grander scale - the NI polity itself.

Francie Molloy, the SDLP and the unionists are right to be concerned. This IS a "sectarian headcount". The plan will be to make sure that the councils dominated by nationalists become more and more nationalist in character.

Reg Empey made some interesting comments in the News Letter on this issue:

"The more you look at, the more you realise this is actually about moving the border up to Portadown, Dromore and Limavady.

"I think people must see the significance and seriousness of this. This is another step towards the Balkanisation of Northern Ireland and plays right into the hands of the republican agenda."

I don't personally support repartition. I think for an Irish nationalist to do so is to pour scorn on what Irish nationalism is about - opposing the segregation of the Irish nation. I want to see a United Ireland based on equality, justice and respect for all that comes about because unionists feel it will be of benefit to them, not a sinister sectarian plot which involves certain counties in the North being swallowed up by the Republic while we see the creation of yet another sectarian NI state where unionists dominate nationalists. That is letting a dirty history repeat itself.

A true Irish republican should see beyond defining people as nationalist and unionist and should instead work for all Irish people regardless of race, colour or creed. Not Sinn Féin though!

With all that being said and while I oppose these measures, it does raise an interesting question for unionists and perhaps some on United Irelander would care to answer it - how would you feel if Northern Ireland were to be partitioned and divided in two? Wouldn't you regard that as the most horrible form of irony?


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