Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Questions for Nationalists...

I came across this interesting piece courtesy of A Tangled Web from the Cadogan Group . It's an anti-Agreement article that touches on both nationalism and unionism today in Ireland's north. It's quite a long piece but the part that caught my eye was the section regarding Irish nationalism called 'Questions for Nationalists'. The Cadogan group state that "some serious thinking on what constitutes nationalism within the circumstances now prevailing in Northern Ireland is long overdue". They pose a number of questions for nationalists so permit me to answer them...

- "Is an unrealistic adherence to Irish Unity worth more decades of communal antagonism?"

First off, the adherence to Irish Unity is not unrealistic unless your method of achieving it involves some moronic effort to outbreed unionists. Irish nationalism is entering a new phase. We have been witnessing recently in the North the evolution of Irish nationalism from pursuing violence to pursuing peace. The playing field has changed and the onus is now on nationalists to put forth a sensible argument for Irish unity to those of the unionist tradition. Secondly, I would argue that the 'communal antagonism' has not emanated from the nationalist community but rather from the unionist community who have historically shown little to no interest in respecting or understanding the nationalist position.

- "Is it time that more discussion was held on the linkages between the aspiration to Irish unity and communal mistrust and the street level sectarian outrages practised by extremists on both sides but particularly by loyalist paramilitaries and their supporters?"

I see no harm in such discussions though I don't believe the aspiration to Irish unity is responsible for communal distrust. I think it is rather a case of ignorance and prejudice.

- "Does ‘Irishness’ have to be linked to an independent Irish political entity? Many Irish people remain thoroughly Irish while living in Great Britain or other parts of Europe, or America or elsewhere. How much easier could it be to be Irish in that part of the island called Northern Ireland, linked culturally and in a thousand other ways with the rest of the island, just as many, including Protestants and even unionists, have already found?"

I think the author answers his/her own point here. Of course Irishness does not have to be linked to an independent Irish political entity. As the author points out, Irish people can feel Irish when living in other parts of the world.

- "If it is felt to be impossible to be fully Irish without being able to give full allegiance to an Irish state, the same would be true of unionists if they were forced against their will to be part of a non-British state. What answer do nationalists have to the charge that this would merely substitute one injustice for another?"

As I pointed out, I feel it is possible to be Irish without giving full allegiance to an Irish state. Furthermore, I believe a United Ireland would need to provide for those people in Ireland who consider themselves British to continue to feel that way. Britishness needs to be protected in a United Ireland.

- "If Northern Ireland exists by virtue of the will of a majority, as the Belfast Agreement says, then its existence is legitimate. Can an argument based on the injustice of Partition remain valid? If it is not, then what is the basis of a demand for unity?"

The existence of the NI state is of course legitimate, however I believe from a nationalist pespective an argument can be based on the injustice of partition. The basis for the demand for unity is the desire to have a 32 county nation-state which is not currently in existence.

- "All nationalist politicians continue to insist that if 50% plus one voted for unity in a referendum, it should happen. What would be the moral argument for incorporating, without their consent, the 50% minus one opposed to it in an Irish Republic at some future date?"

The author uses the word 'incorporating' here to imply that if 50% plus one is achieved, the Irish Republic will then end up swallowing the North for itself so to speak. This is not how I see it. The fact is, 50% plus one will involve the end of not only 'Northern Ireland' but also the 'Republic of Ireland'. It will bring about an entirely new state - 'Ireland'. The moral argument for that in my opinion is that unionists and nationalists will both benefit from this new polity.

- "Would the action of exchanging a disaffected nationalist minority in one jurisdiction, the UK, for a disaffected unionist minority in another (the Republic) solve anything?"

It is my belief that The Troubles would not have occurred had unionists shown more concern towards nationalists upon NI's inception. I believe in a UI, great concern will be shown for ALL people and that no group will be left 'disaffected'.

"Would not a demand for re-partition of Northern Ireland have a stronger moral base?"

I see no moral base whatsoever regarding the demand for re-partition.

- "Is the aspiration really territorial rather than a wish for a culturally Irish people to live in an Irish state?"

This question is too simplistic. Ultimately a nation-state is a state which encompasses the nation. France, for example is a nation-state. However, unionists too make up an important part of Irish culture in my opinion - the orange culture. The aspiration for unity can be both territorial and cultural in my view.

- "Could it be that the policies of both nationalist parties put short-term triumphalism based on unionist discomfiture above the real interests of the nationalist community?"

I would not disagree with this viewpoint.

I think the above questions are indeed important for Irish nationalists and it's time we all set about answering these questions to prove that the cause for a United Ireland is noble and that our concern for unionists is sincere.


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