Friday, March 30, 2007


Who should be in power after the Election?

There is a resemblance First things first I've closed the poll on my sidebar which asked the question, "Will the DUP move on and restore NI's institutions?"

The final results were:

Yes - 37% (90 votes)
No - 63% (153 votes)

243 votes in total

It would seem in this instance that the majority have got it wrong, though with politics in NI you can never be sure. Fingers crossed anyway that everything works out.

I'd like to now move on to events here in the south seeing as the General Election is but a few weeks away. This Wednesday I will post an interview with Independent TD for Dublin Central Tony Gregory who discusses the election and other matters so make sure you check that out next week.

Speaking of elections I must say I find the events leading up to them very irritating. The visits from politicians who finally remember you exist, the petty sniping from both sides, the plethora of signs and billboards which spring up everywhere, (I think there's still some up in my area from the last one) and so on and so forth.

But there is one thing I do enjoy from general elections which makes all the BS worthwhile - politicians finally realising where the true power lies. Yes, this is the time where we the voting public get to send politicians a message. It's an opportunity I myself have been eagerly awaiting and I'm looking forward to marking my ballot this summer.

The political parties are already doing their utmost to sway you on to their way of thinking and part and parcel of this involves lashing out at the opposition's policies. The Progressive Democrats have been busy doing just that and have hit out at the prospect of a Fine Gael/Labour coalition by launching a website undermining their policies. Called Rainbow Splits the site calls into question the ability of Fine Gael and Labour to work together citing differences in outlook between the two. I can't say I was that impressed with the site but I suppose it is early days. Their Laurel and Hardy spoof shown above is pretty good though.

Maybe we should lock him up
Parties sticking the boot in

I am interested to know what your thoughts are on the election at this point in time with regards to who you would like to see end up in government. Where are you leaning towards? I have therefore added a new poll to my sidebar which asks the question:

"Who would you like to see in government after the General Election?"

I have included the most likely possibilities and what I would say are a few unlikely ones too.

So then, who do you hope to see at the cabinet table when it's all said and done?

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Female sailor at centre of media storm

I figured I would weigh in with my two cents on the big international incident doing the rounds right now. This is of course Iran's capture of British sailors and marines who were allegedly in their waters. The British dispute this and claim they have proof they were in fact in Iraqi waters.

Now I don't know which side is telling the truth really but quite frankly I'm amazed at how eager the British media have been to whip the nation up into a big frenzy over this issue.

Case in point, a few days ago I heard British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett demanding evidence that the sailors were being treated OK. The Iranians said they were being treated fine but the British demanded evidence of this.

So, the Iranians have now released footage of the sailors proving they are indeed doing alright and, suddenly, according to the British media they have been "paraded" before the world and this is deemed "unacceptable".

Not only that but the camera footage of the lone female sailor, Faye Turner, is being analysed about as much as the Zapruder film. Talk about hysteria. Rupert Murdoch's fair and balanced Sky reported that she looked "worried" while the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner said he thought Turney's words had been scripted:

"She did not sound there like somebody who was saying those words of her free will. Obviously she had been told what to say."

It's not obvious at all. She's not crying or anything. She's not openly distressed. It is ridiculous to claim that she has "obviously" been instructed on what to talk about. The footage also showed the eight Royal Navy sailors and seven Royal Marines eating a meal. They looked a damn sight better than prisoners in certain other parts of the world.

Not exactly Guantanamo Bay, is it?

A letter was also released by Faye Turney and people have suggested it has been worded very strangely which is a possible sign it was written under duress. Dear oh dear. What will they dream up next? Talk about seeing what you want to see.

"Ooh look at how little she's blinking. That could be her way of saying 'I'm in danger, please send help'. We must attack Iran now!"

Give me a break. I then happened upon someone called 'Patty' on A Tangled Web (a new recruit apparently who seems to be to the right of Andy McCann) and she wrote this charming bit of lunacy. I couldn't believe my eyes as I read this...

"I don’t blame Seaman Turney for her pathetic and illogical murmurings. I would do the same if I were in her shoes. She is either scared to death, or maybe suffering from Stockholm Syndrome."

I'm not even British but I will defend the poor woman as I find these remarks way out of order. Clearly Patty is a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Patty, if you would do the same if you were in her shoes, why then do you find her "murmurings" to be "pathetic and illogical". Does that make any sense? By the way, irony alert - Patty labels this post of hers "Kidnappers are Friendly, Thoughtful and Compassionate!" Well they're more friendly than you it would seem!

Patty cleverly (not) wraps up with this question...

"If the kidnappers are so thoughtful and compassionate, why don’t they release all of the captives??"

Have you not followed the story, love? They're not releasing the captives because they claim they were illegally occupying their waters. Patty also blames the BBC for "reporting this PR stunt, without skepticism or judgment". Um, isn't that an example of good journalism? What do you want? Biased views? I don't know about you but I'm not a fan of Mr Vance's latest recruit!

It seems according to the British war hawks there can only be one of two possibilities regarding the video. The first is that the captives are being told how to act and behave, the second is that the captives have succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome. If it's the latter that must be a world record as I don't know how so many people could become victims of Stockholm Syndrome so soon! Permit me to present possibility three - that the Iranians are actually serious about getting to the bottom of all this and that they have actually been treating the British sailors well!

In recent hours it has emerged that the Iranians have offered to let UK officials have access to the sailors. The Iranian Foreign Minister has said the stand-off would be resolved if the UK admitted that the sailors and marines were in Iranian waters.

Not exactly the cold, brutal and uncaring attitude that some people would have you believe.

Obviously this is not an easy issue but it's nothing diplomacy can't fix. It is annoying to hear all these British figures, desperate for a bit of action, trying to increase tensions between the countries. This incident has been blown way out of proportion in my opinion.

The female sailor should be released soon and the other sailors will follow. In a week's time this story will be over and done with.

It's smooth sailing from here on in. Just ignore the storms.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Words on Wednesday...with Arthur Morgan TD

Arthur MorganWelcome to this week's Words on Wednesday feature here on United Irelander, a concept unique to the Irish blogosphere, which sees me interview various figures from all walks of political life.

The countdown to the General Election continues in earnest here on UI as Sinn Féin TD for Louth, Arthur Morgan, takes my questions this week. To prevent confusion, I should point out that this interview was conducted prior to the groundbreaking events that occurred over the weekend which is why said events were not discussed.

My thanks to Mr Morgan for agreeing to be interviewed. With that out of the way let's begin...

What initially attracted you to political life?

I grew up in the late 1960s, at a time when Civil Rights marches were taking place across America. Soon, those marches began here in Ireland as well. Since I have always had an interest in Irish history, it was natural that I become involved in Civil and National Rights issues.

You are a Sinn Féin TD for Louth. Talk us through a typical day in your life.

My phone rang this morning at 6.20am – but that’s not typical! I get up between 6.00am and 7.00am, check some papers etc for the day’s business and leave for the Dail around 8.30am – leaving me on the motorway while most people are leaving children to school – arriving at the Dail around 10.15am. Several meetings with groups and Dail Committees, legislation/debate and head for home at 7.00 to 8.00pm, usually taking in one or two calls on my way home. I like to hit bed around midnight – no later, if possible.

If you could change three things about Irish society what would you change and why?

I would love to get back to the great caring attitude of Irish people which I recall from my youth (is this a sign I’m getting old?) In the rush of modern society, we sometimes become more “me, me” and that is sad.

I would love to see more preventative care in our health system. Yes, it would cost up front. But we would save significantly financially within a few years and save our people unnecessary pain and suffering.

Quality of life issues are rarely considered now. This is an important area, worthy of more attention.

What are your thoughts on a United Ireland?

I believe Irish Reunification is closer than ever. Look, for example, at last year’s 1916 commemorations – the Government were falling over themselves to honour our Patriot dead. Even Fine Gael are trying to present themselves as Republicans! I believe more and more people are beginning to recognise the economic and social arguments in favour of Irish Unity and political parties in the south are attempting to portray themselves as republicans and advocates of unity to play up to that section of the electorate. Happy days. Bring it on.

What do you make of the recent election results in the North which have seen Sinn Féin take an impressive 28 seats?

I was delighted with the impressive results and our huge success in those elections. As I said, more and more people recognise the economic and social arguments in favour of Irish Unity. You will see that view reflected in this State soon as well.

What needs to be done to improve the situation in the North?

Conditions for society need to improve through provision of better infrastructure. For example, there is a housing crisis for several decades now and healthcare is almost as bad as in this State. Similarly with education provision. I know these issues can be tackled and resolved by a local Administration, rather than ‘fly-in-fly-out’ Brit Ministers.

The two governments have said if the Assembly cannot be restored that a Plan B will come into play involving 'joint stewardship' of the North. What are your feelings on that?

I believe the best option is for the Assembly to get back up and running. However, if this is to be continually obstructed by the DUP, then the two Governments should get on with implementing as much of the Good Friday Agreement as possible. I also hope the Irish Government will become more pro-active rather than the semi-spectator role played by them recently.

Sinn Féin made the historic decision earlier this year to support the PSNI. How did you feel about that at the time, and do you think Sinn Féin's impressive election results vindicate that decision?

Like most Republicans, I had huge reservations about the PSNI. However, we have achieved massive change to policing, that I believe can deliver a civic police service to ALL in the North. Our Extraordinary Ard Fheis decision was taken for this reason and not for short term electoral gain.

One of the issues you feel very strongly about is the threat posed by the Sellafield nuclear facility. Tell us a bit about your campaign against Sellafield.

When I began campaigning against Sellafield, a local FF Councillor called on me to be silent as I was ‘scaring tourists away’! I was a lone voice at the time. Now, of course, every Government Minister and her sister are opposed to Sellafield. I visited the site, travelled to Europe and handed Tony Blair personal letters (on two occasions) while in Downing Street on Peace Process business. I raise it in the Dail regularly and am far from finished on this campaign.

You are Sinn Féin's party spokesperson on the Environment and Local Government. What are your thoughts on global warming which has become such a major issue in the world?

This is a massive issue which almost all governments are refusing to tackle. For example, our Government have allocated €270 million to emissions trading, thus putting a key cornerstone of national policy on BUYING our way through Kyoto, rather than implementing serious changes, both fiscal and regulatory, to ensure specific targets are met. Without specific, achievable targets for Industry as well as transport and householders, we will struggle with this problem. We owe it to future generations that we pass on this little planet to them in reasonable condition.

Do you expect to see more cross-border co-operation in the near future? How would this help your own constituency of Louth?

Yes. I expect and hope to see more cross-border co-operation in the future. This would and could help the people of Louth and all the border counties in a very practical way in terms of roads infrastructure and speed limits, mobile phone tariffs, health services and access to emergency services and in enterprise and job creation. In fact cross-border co-operation has the potential to enhance the quality of life of so many citizens on both sides of the border in many, many ways.

Looking at the election approaching here in the Republic, do you think it is possible that Sinn Féin could end up in government?

Everything is possible but it is impossible to predict until after the electorate have spoken and the votes are counted. What is certain is that Sinn Féin will not entertain any party that is not prepared to commit to achieving our goals of ending the crisis in the health service, providing social housing for the many thousands on the waiting lists and re-uniting the country.

With regards to your own Louth constituency, how confident are you of hanging on to your seat?

Quietly confident.

From talking to your constituents, what are you finding their biggest concerns to be?

Healthcare and housing are the two big issues in Co Louth. Our hospital has lost its Children’s ward, Maternity Unit, Gynae ward and several other crucial services. Under current HSE/Government plans, it will loose A & E as well as our Intensive Care Unit next year. On housing, there are almost three thousand people on Social Housing Waiting lists and thousands more unable to afford to buy their own home. Without doubt, these are the two big issues.

What do you expect will be the outcome of this summer's general election?

Only two things are certain. They are that there will be an election and that from the election there will be a coalition government formed. I don’t buy into the notion that the election is a two horse race between the current coalition and the proposed Fine Gael/Labour coalition. I think some parties will be forced to re-think their coalition options after the election and I also think that we may well see a change in some of the party’s leaderships.

Where should Ireland be twenty years from now in your opinion?

United, free, prosperous, peaceful and healthy with great public services and infrastructure.

What does the future hold in store for you?

I can’t really plan for the future until the people of Louth speak through the ballot box in eight or ten weeks from now.

Finally I'd like to play a small round of word association. I'm sure you know what it entails. Basically just outline what word comes into your head when you hear the following:

Bertie Ahern - ruthless
Tony Blair - has-been
Ian Paisley - old man
Gerry Adams - shrewd
Mark Durkan - why say one word when you can say twenty
United Ireland - happening soon
Unionism - spent force
Sinn Féin - THE future
Fianna Fáil - mafia
Arthur Morgan - do I know him?

Best of luck to Arthur in his bid to retain his Louth seat.

Next week, Independent TD for Dublin Central, Tony Gregory, takes my questions. Make sure to check out United Irelander's election coverage over the coming weeks and months.

Previous interviews can be read here.


Rejectionists going the way of the dodo

By now you're probably all aware of the decision by the DUP's Jim Allister (pictured left) to resign from the DUP effective immediately.

Allister claimed he could not "in conscience" accept going into government with Sinn Féin, even though that is what the majority of the people in NI really want.

At his press conference Allister stated:

"I have fought a protracted battle within the party over recent months against a premature DUP/Sinn Fein government.

"I now have to accept that this battle is lost."

He is right. The battle is lost. And that is a good thing. People like Jim Allister, Bob McCartney as well as certain bloggers need to realise that this is the only way forward. Jim Allister is not some man of integrity "fighting the good fight".

On the contrary, he is a remnant of a bygone age. He has been left behind by the changing times and he and his ilk now have to face up to extinction due to their inability to adapt to the modern climate.

Much like the foolish dodo waddled out before humans thus exposing itself to the threat of extinction, similarly Jim Allister waddled out for his press conference sending a once promising career into total oblivion.

Jim AllisterBird-brain
The very same

Recent developments in the North are the result of one thing, one thing which I have discussed often here on United Irelander - evolution.

Ian Paisley is not a man I have any time for but at least he finally had the foresight and wisdom to understand that it was a simple choice of evolve or perish. He chose the former and as a result he will be able to exercise power, for the time being at least.

Allister meanwhile will go the way of Bob McCartney - a lone voice crying out in an uncaring world. Much like how the last dodo must have felt as evolution left it behind!

Rejectionist unionists have been at this kind of thing for years. They rejected nationalist symbols like the tricolour in the North before eventually having to accept it. They rejected forging ties with the south of the island before eventually having to accept it. They rejected the Anglo-Irish agreement before eventually having to accept it. They rejected the Good Friday Agreement before eventually having to accept it. Now, not only do they accept the south's relationship with the North, but they also accept our money with Ian Paisley recently asking the Taoiseach for more funds!

What does this symbolise? Evolution! Adapt and accept it or get left behind.

This evolution is a process that has been ongoing for decades and it will continue without question. Of course rejectionists will be there to oppose all manner of proposals in the future. And, inevitably, there will come a time when the reunification of Ireland is at hand and, yes, they will reject that too.

But you know what? It will happen. Why? Because most people in the North are not like the Jim Allisters and Bob McCartneys of this world. Most people are not dodos like those men are.

The evolution of politics on this island will continue apace as it cannot be halted, merely delayed. Rejectionist unionists can pout and whine and stir up a fuss but in the end, one way or another, they will join the rest of us in witnessing a new age in Irish politics. They can kick and scream and act like spoilt children all they want, but the majority of people in this island are grown-ups and the tantrums will never succeed. Hell, just look at the North today and you'll see that.

The simple truth is that in the not too distant future, people will learn about rejectionist unionism in the same way they learn about creatures like the dodo - via the history books.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Beat Slovakia or we're going to sack ya!

The title says it all. Wednesday's match against Slovakia is a must-win game for Steve Staunton and the Irish team.

Staunton has been at the helm of some of the most atrocious displays in recent Irish football history including a 1-0 home defeat to Chile, a 4-0 home drubbing at the hands of Holland, a 5-2 stuffing away to Cyprus, an embarrassingly lucky 2-1 victory over minnows San Marino and a woefully dour 1-0 victory over Wales this past Saturday.

And the English think they have it bad.

Staunton has today named his side for the game tomorrow and there were no nasty surprises as was the case over the weekend. Kevin Doyle comes in for the suspended Robbie Keane and Aidan McGeady replaces Jonathan Douglas in midfield. Shay Given meanwhile is set to equal Packie Bonner's record of caps won by a goalkeeper when he plays in his 80th game. Right now I reckon he's the only world class player we have.

I correctly predicted three out of four results last Saturday (can't remember which one it was I got wrong) and I'm aiming now to better that by correctly predicting all five of Wednesday's matches involving teams from these islands. Here's how I see things going...

Ireland 2 Slovakia 1

I've a very bad feeling about this game. Seeing as right now we're managed by a buffoon, this has banana skin written all over it. On the plus side, we are home and it looks like he has named a reasonable team this time. I think there will be a few scares but I fancy us to just about edge it, thus prolonging Staunton's stay (oh joy!). What I'm hoping for, besides the result of course, is a good performance as the last couple of games have been bloody awful to watch.

Andorra 0 England 4

England haven't been doing well lately but this should placate their fans for the time being. Andorra are not a good side and I expect England to win very easily.

Italy 2 Scotland 0

I hope Scotland can get a result over there but I don't like their chances being away from home. The world champions traditionally are solid at the back and with Luca Toni up front they will be very dangerous. I see this being 2-0 but I hope I'm wrong.

Wales 3 San Marino 0

The Welsh were pretty dismal in Dublin on Saturday. They will be eager to bounce back from that and San Marino are the ideal team to play. This should be a comfortable win for them.

England Ju...uh I mean Northern Ireland 1 Sweden 3

This is where reality comes crashing down on the 'wee' NI fans. Ireland hammered Sweden 3-0 in Staunton's first game in charge but the Swedes won't suffer a similar fate against Lawrie Sanchez's side. One has to laugh at this talk of the 'world class' David Healy. This is a guy who has been on the bench for much of Leeds United's season in the Championship, a season that currently sees them bottom of the table! Yeah what a world class player he is! The Swedes should comfortably see off NI. I can see them grabbing a consolation though.

Feel free to give your thoughts on how you see the matches going tomorrow or make some predictions on the results if you fancy.


Irish tricolour bashed by Young Unionists

A glorious flagWarning - this post cites moronic views from a unionist that may lead to a dramatic rise in blood pressure, or severe loss of coffee from being spit at your monitor in laughter. Read on...

I have brought up nonsensical ramblings from the Young Unionists before here on United Irelander but the words from Michael Shilliday on the Irish tricolour really take the biscuit.

This past Saturday on the YU site young Micheál wrote a post highlighting a letter he had written to the Irish News where he expressed his opposition to my national flag.

For those unaware of the origins of the Irish tricolour, it was first flown by Irish revolutionary Thomas Francis Meagher and the Young Ireland movement. The green on the flag is meant to symbolise nationalists/Catholics, the orange represents the unionist/Protestant tradition and the white is meant to symbolise peace between the two traditions. The design was largely inspired by the French tricolour.

Sadly, this does not sit well with young Mr Shilliday who has decided to throw a Mickey-fit (huh ho!) in bizarre and extraordinary fashion. First, get a load of his comment on the Irish tricolour from 2004:

"The monoculturally Irish will tell you with glee that their flag is a symbol of the peace between the green and the orange. Thanks to their violent elements and backward thinking, the white can now only ever demonstrate the gap between the green and orange. The monoculturally Irish need a new flag."

Huh? Violent elements and backward thinking? What was this guy smoking? He's calling us 'monocultural'? This from a guy whose party a few years ago ran a campaign with a slogan entitled 'Simply British'? Oh what rubbish he spouts! But his views haven't changed, oh no. They say with age comes wisdom but not in Shilliday's case. Here is what he is saying in 2007:

"that flag was christened by, and has ever since been used as a background to, Irish separatist terrorism."

Christened by terrorism? How were the Irish republicans of the 19th century terrorists when they simply sought to free themselves from British rule by the same means which had brought the country under said rule in the first place? Were the US revolutionaries terrorists too? Were the British employing terrorism when they came to this island and forcibly removed people from their homes and stole their land? Talk about revisionist BS. He continues...

"I am a Unionist who is determined not to allow either the IRA’s various sectarian murder campaigns, nor the attempt at an ideological land grab by the monoculturally Irish, rob me of my Irish identity."

So let me get this straight, this guy is determined not to allow the Provos rob him of HIS Irish identity, but apparently MY Irish identity must be robbed from me! I am a nationalist who is determined not to let the Provisional IRA's campaign tarnish MY culture. What's the difference, Michael?

"I wish to see Ireland united into a truly diverse and inclusive state – the British one. That failing to be the case, I have no desire to be coerced into an insular and ideologically narrow, independent Ireland; my home being within the United Kingdom is more important to me than Ireland being unified."

Hmm, so when we nationalists in the south express our desire to have an independent united Ireland it is an "ideological land grab by the monoculturally Irish" yet when Michael Shilliday expresses his desire to see Ireland united into the British state, that's all fine and dandy apparently! Talk about hypocrisy! And people wonder why the Ulster Unionists are a mess!

"Ireland can never be a united island while there is a determination to eradicate both the British sovereignty and the British heritage of this place."

Who desires that? Who has this "determination" to eradicate Britishness? This guy's off his rocker!

"What is needed is not for separatists to better understand an interpretation of a flag tainted with more than a century of blood, but for an acceptance of the multicultural and inclusive British identity."

What? So I must give up my identity because a minority of people tainted my flag? How come you don't have to give up your flag seeing as the BNP, Loyalists, Oswald Mosley and other unsavoury types tainted it? More hypocritical, nonsensical BS.

"If this is not going to happen, then I repeat my assertion: the monoculturally Irish need a new flag."

There are probably more immigrants per capita in my city right now than in most European cities, certainly there are more than in whatever city Michael comes from in the North. There are more than 100,000 Polish people living in Dublin at this point in time. There are more Chinese speakers in the Republic right now than Irish-speakers. Monocultural my arse. Get back to me when your party is represented by people other than middle-aged Orangemen. I repeat my assertion - you're off your rocker, Shilliday.

Poor Mickey got a hammering in the comments section of his post when people pointed out his stupidity. Even his Ulster Unionist colleague Brian Crowe pointed out his utterly insane idiocy. Here was Michael's woeful reply:

"Brian,you somewhat miss my point. The monoculture in the Irish Republic is free to do what it wishes, however its flag is a lie. It claims to represent a section of Irish people who have no desire to be removed from the British nation. RoI therefore needs a new, more accurate, flag."

Wrong, the flag predates the existence of the Irish state which is why it is seen as a flag that can represent ALL people on the island. Thus, those from the orange tradition are just as entitled to claim it represents them as nationalists like myself are. The flag isn't a lie, you're just too ignorant to understand its significance. You are blinded by anti-Irish hatred and the more you spout your vitriol the more you close your mind.

If the future of Ulster Unionism rests in the hands of people like Michael Shilliday then the party is well and truly doomed. One has to laugh at a guy who lambasts a state with a thriving immigrant population, who have settled in remarkably well, as "monocultural". One has to laugh at a guy who claims only Britishness can promote diversity when he then goes around and berates another culture's flag and moral character. One has to laugh at a guy who defends the union jack, a flag which is in fact synonymous with imperialism and suppression of culture from America to Europe to Africa and beyond.

Can other cultures and identities truly fit in to the future that unionist bigots like Michael Shilliday envision? I think not.

If today you pass by the Irish tricolour flying proudly over your city, reflect on the sacrifices of the brave men and women who gave up their lives for a better future. Reflect on the domination and deprivation they sought to overthrow. Reflect on the admirable symbolism that is contained in that noble flag.

Reflect on all those things, then smile and think of Michael Shilliday. I know I will. Such ignorance as embodied by he shall never ever again become the rule of thumb.

No surrender, Michael! Ireland forever!

Monday, March 26, 2007


Welcome to Bizarro world

Wow, now there's a Kodak moment. Talk about surreal.

In a historic deal brokered by the DUP's Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams, the Irish and British governments have agreed to accommodate the new target date of May 8th for the restoration of power-sharing.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair discussed this morning's developments in a phone call this lunchtime, and agreed to the six-week delay, in view of what is seen as an 'absolute commitment' to restore the institutions.

If you're finding that hard to believe, get a load of this quote:

"We must not allow our justified loathing of the horrors and tragedies of the past to become a barrier to making a better and more stable future for our children.''

Who said that? Ian Paisley that's who! Unbelievable stuff.

I still don't see why the DUP have to wait until May for devolution. Something just doesn't add up here.

And while I expect to hear gushing praise given to all concerned from most quarters today, I remain very sceptical of today's events. Notice how no one has been left with egg on their faces, no one has lost out. EVERYBODY involved has profited in some way.

Prior to the elections it was all about the two governments, the DUP and Sinn Féin. Now, after this announcement, who are the big winners? Why funnily enough it's the two governments, the DUP and Sinn Féin!

Tony Blair can now leave office and pass the 'torch of history' if you will unto Gordon Brown leaving his legacy in our island intact. The Secretary of State Peter Hain, the notorious Brown-noser, can make his historic speeches and claim to be the Secretary of State who got the two sides talking.

Bertie Ahern and the Fianna Fáilers can march confidently toward the summer elections here in the Republic claiming to be the boys who finally sorted out those pesky rejectionist unionists. They can claim they brought about stability to the island.

Ian Paisley and the DUP can claim they got big concessions from Sinn Féin and have done what was required of them by the unionist people (as dodgy as that will sound). No doubt today's events will make for a nice part in the Paisley film that's meant to be on the way.

Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin meanwhile can continue pushing themselves as the party for the future. The guys who want to see an island of equals etc. They will remind us at every opportunity of the huge sacrifices that they have made and how they got rejectionist unionism to embrace their all-island agenda.

And you know what? I reckon quite a few people will buy into all this. It is certainly a great deal achieved by all parties. Greater than many may realise.

Me? I'll not get swept along by the inevitable euphoria. I suspect we're going to hear the word "progress" uttered quite a lot in the coming weeks and months but I would ask you to reflect upon this quote from the great Irishman George Bernard Shaw:

"Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people."

Seems more than appropriate don't you think?

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Forget Paisley and move on with Plan B

We all know there is a movie about the life of Ian Paisley currently in the works but I don't think this was in the script, do you?

It seems the Doc is facing quite a backlash from his party colleagues who apparently aren't as spineless as we previously thought. Unhappy with the prospect of devolution being restored to the North plus Sinn Féin in government, the DUP party executive meeting on Thursday was the scene of furious objections from angry DUP members.

According to The Guardian, Paisley was said to be shocked at the day's events and the strength of the executive reaction. Said one source:

"It went ten times worse than we expected, and he is now looking for a big concession we do not have."

That concession would be a six-week delay on the deadline that the two governments originally set - for this Monday. It seems Paisley and his party are willing to enter government with Sinn Féin in May but not now in March. Why? Beats me. I don't get this at all.

Time to adopt this stance

Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams has accused the DUP of frustrating the will of the electorate and has urged the British government to fulfil its promise of dissolving the Assembly and initiating Plan B, which involves joint stewardship of NI and all-Ireland partnership arrangements.

The scale of the DUP's problem is not to be underestimated. The Guardian reports a worrying 45% of the party are said to be opposed to power sharing at this stage.

Interestingly, sources have spoken of increasing worries that Paisley is losing his grip on the executive as a succession battle starts between Peter Robinson and the more hardline Nigel Dodds. Meanwhile figures such as South Antrim MP Willy McCrea and MEP Jim Allister appear to be opposed to any deal with Republicans. Who would have thought that the cult-like status of the Reverend would be challenged in this fashion?

I guess Paisley severely misjudged the resentment that was swirling amongst the rank-and-file of the DUP. Do these maniacal clowns not realise that the people of NI want devolution restored? Who the hell do they think they are? If they were so opposed to devolution they should have ran on an anti-devolution ticket like the rest of the rejectionist dinosaurs.

Regardless of Paisley's problems I hope the British government remain resolute and pull the trigger on Plan B. This is the only way real progress can be made. It's ridiculous to continue pussyfooting around a party whose lunatics are mounting a takeover of the asylum.

I have a horrible feeling however that the DUP will once again get their way and that another crazy chapter will sadly begin in the north of Ireland. It's quite pathetic, don't you think?

I'm wondering if the Paisley film will actually be a comedy because what Ian and the boys are getting up to now is not compelling drama, rather it's full blown farce. Maybe his new film should be called "Carry On stalling"?

Regardless, it's now time for the Irish and British governments to carry on making politics work in the North and to strengthen the peace.

"Not yet" has become the new "never, never, never." I'm tired of this BS.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Historic day for Irish soccer

HomeA historic day today in sport as the Ireland team participates in the first ever football match at Croke Park when they take on Wales in a Euro 2008 qualifier. Kick-off is at 3.00 pm.

I don't suspect this will be as emotional as the rugby matches were against France and England some weeks back but it should be a cracking atmosphere nonetheless.

This is a must-win game for Ireland, but particularly the manager Steve Staunton. I feel he should have been sacked long ago for the abysmal performances by the team and if we fail to pick up three points today, then that will surely be it for Stan's reign of terror.

OK I have stuck my neck out numerous times and made predictions on how the big games will go so why should today be any different? Here's how I see things going...

Ireland 2 Wales 0

This Welsh team are, to steal a line from the legendary John Giles, "no great shakes, Bill". Croke Park is expected to have a sell-out crowd of 74,000 and if that doesn't motivate the players, then nothing will. John Toshack is a far better manager than Steve Staunton but I feel there is more quality amongst the Irish team and hopefully Super Shay can save the save day if need be. Come on Ireland!

Israel 1 England 1

I heard Martin Keown say of Israel "they are not a top nation". What, and England are? Israel were a very dodgy side for Ireland during the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign and we dropped a lot of points to them. England are a bit of a mess at the minute and the knives are out for boss Steve McClaren, which I think is harsh in his case. Rooney's been in poor form and Andy Johnson hasn't proven himself at international level so I think England could be lacking in ideas up front against a competent, competitive team. 1-1 will be the result in my opinion.

Scotland 1 Georgia 0

The Scots aren't the 16th best team in the world, despite what the rankings say, but they are a better team than Georgia and I would expect them to win seeing as they are at home.

Liechtenstein 0 England Junior aka Northern Ireland 0

The 'wee' fans of NI will certainly love the pre-match anthems today seeing as the Liechtenstein national anthem uses the same tune as God Save the Queen. Of course Northern Ireland has God Save the Queen as its anthem so now the 'inclusive' NI team (snigger) will be able to belt out their praise for the British monarch not once but twice! Oh joy! I would love nothing more than for the great pretenders of NI to suffer a humiliating defeat to the minnows of Liechtenstein but I can't see that happening. Still, in admittedly difficult conditions against a team that have been slowly improving I can see the slight possibility of NI dropping two points so I'm going with a 0-0 draw.

For the record I am quite prepared to eat humble pie if I am way off with these predictions but I am confident it won't have to come to that. As I said at the beginning, today will go down as a historic day in Irish football but one wonders if that will be partly due to this being Steve Staunton's last game in charge...

No more slip-ups lads!

Friday, March 23, 2007


Lights, camera, now time for action...

I found tonights edition of Let's Talk on BBC NI very interesting. For those of you who missed the show it might appear online at some point, if the BBC bother to update their site that is.

The panellists were Jim Wells of the DUP, Naomi Long of the Alliance Party, Conor Murphy of Sinn Féin and, surprisingly, Pat Rabbitte of Labour (that's a bit strange, no?)

The main topics discussed were devolution obviously, Gordon Brown's financial package for the North, the pay-off, er I mean project funding given to the UPRG, and also the new movie coming out which will chronicle the life of DUP leader Ian Paisley (ooh when's it out?!)

I decided to rate the four of them on how I thought they did...

Jim Wells of the DUP - Ugh what a boring, uncharismatic, whiney little man. Look up 'lackey' in the dictionary and you'll see this guy's face staring back at you. He stated he wanted to see the North's rate of corporation tax lowered to 12.5%, which is the same rate as that of the Republic, and when it was pointed out to him by host Mark Carruthers that this would essentially mean an all-island rate of tax and that this was an example of all-island co-operation working, he pretty much threw a strop. It was hilariously childish. The last time I saw a grown man get that worked up was when I accused a friend of mine of liking a lady with more facial hair than he had. Sorry Jim, 2/5 for you.

Naomi Long - Well, it's not very difficult for Alliance members on these types of shows to come across like the voice of sanity. Think of the typical discussions as akin to a garden of old weeds that tangle you up and choke the life out of you if you go near them. Better off staying on the fence then aren't you? I thought Ms Long did OK. She didn't bowl me over or anything. 3/5.

Conor Murphy - This guy tends to come across like a cool and competent guy whenever I see him, if a little flat at the same time. Decent enough performance but nothing that would leave a lasting impression. I liked his response to the question on how Gordon Brown would do as British Prime Minister - "I look forward to the day when it becomes irrelevant who the Prime Minister is on the neighbouring island". I look forward to that day too. 3/5.

Pat Rabbitte - I like Pat Rabbitte, especially since he gave me an interview on my site a few months back. Even so, I disagree strongly with him on the UDA funding issue and was disappointed he didn't condemn the matter like everyone else. His view that the money will be closely monitored by the British government seems like wishful thinking at best. Not Pat's best performance I'm afraid. 2/5.

What struck me most about the show was how much the playing field has changed for both Sinn Féin and the DUP. It doesn't seem that long ago that Sinn Féin were the ones feeling the contempt from various sections of the media and public. The Northern Bank raid, the continued influence of the Provisional IRA, the OTR legislation, policing etc. I remember how people would roll their eyes and sigh as they gave their thoughts on why progress wasn't being made. Now the DUP are in that very position. There is a strong sense of exasperation amongst the public. They are the largest party in the North but the support for devolution is stronger than the support for their party.

Overall the programme was pretty run-of-the-mill but I found the audience's attitude towards the DUP very encouraging. As one unionist gentleman remarked, people are sick and tired of the constant fudge.

On a final note, the last question of the evening asked what the new movie based on Ian Paisley should be called. Here's my suggestion...

It's called "Shriek" and it will star Ian Paisley as an ogre who must rescue Princess Philomena (Fiona sounds too Irish) from the clutches of those nasty Republicans intent on bringing down the monarchy. Donkey will be played by Reg Empey, or, failing that, Steve Staunton.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


UDA project to receive £1m

Have you ever watched that show Dragon's Den where would-be businessmen offer a proposal to a group of investors in the hope of netting significant funding?

Well I think I'm going to try out for the show with my great idea.

You see, I'm going to set up a group affiliated with a bunch of drug-dealing, terrorist murderers and earn money on the condition that I get them to move away from their criminal ways.

Hey, what do you mean that won't work? It's worked for the Ulster Political Research Group!

Money well spent?

Today was a day that £1bn was pledged to the North's parties on the condition that the devolved assembly is restored, £400m of which will come from the Republic. However it seems this paramilitary pay-off was designed to slip quietly under the radar.

Frankie Gallagher of the UPRG laughably said "the community is the paramilitary organisation... they (the UDA) are an integral part of the community". He added:

"The money is not going to the UDA, it is not going to UDA personnel or into their coffers.

"It is going to a legitimate organisation which has existed for some 20 years and which has been at the forefront of peace-building in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland.

"We have to face up to a new reality in Northern Ireland. We have to make peace by talking to our enemies that we don't like talking to - you do not make peace by talking to your friends."

What a load of baloney. It's a shame to see the British government giving in to this kind of blackmail.

"Here you go gents. Give up that nasty business of killing people and we'll give you all a nice pay package. Buy all the drugs and prostitutes that you want!"

Talk about doing a deal with the devil...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Keane blasts 'anti-Cork' conspiracy

Legend Roy Keane is one of my heroes and I'm all for a bit of FAI-bashing, but I can't agree with his claim that there is a conspiracy against Cork-born players.

I agree with everything else he says though.


Words on Wednesday...with Tommy Broughan TD

Tommy Broughan TDWelcome to this week's Words on Wednesday feature here on United Irelander, a concept unique to the Irish blogosphere, which sees me interview various figures from all walks of political life.

With the Republic's General Election but a few months away, taking my questions this week is Labour TD for Dublin North East Tommy Broughan.

My thanks to Mr Broughan for kindly agreeing to be interviewed. With that being said, let's begin:

What initially attracted you to political life?

Growing up in a working class/farm worker family I saw at first hand the struggle that families such as my own had to endure due to low incomes, poor housing and health facilities and few educational opportunities. The tide of local emigration to the UK and further afield also made me politically aware and determined to get involved and help to change and improve Irish society.

You are a Labour Party TD for Dublin North East. Talk us through a typical day in your life.

Monday, March the 5th, I began the day by listening to Morning Ireland and Newstalk, although I often also tune in to the BBC. At 9am I was in Coolock for a local walkabout. At 11am I held my weekly information clinic in the Darndale Belcamp Village Centre before heading in to a government briefing session on the new Energy White Paper at the Royal Hibernian Academy at 12.15. After that I read the new Energy White Paper and drafted a response to it on behalf of the Labour Party. In the afternoon I also filmed a piece for RTE's 6 o'clock news on the new Energy document. I was in my Dail office until around 7.30pm dealing with any constituents' calls or local issues, finalising my new leaflet and preparing amendments for the Communications Regulation (Amendment) Bill which is passing through the Dail this week. At 8pm I attended a meeting at Greendale Community School Kilbarrack and after 9pm I went to St. Paul's School Ayrfield for another meeting with the Ard Na Greine Residents Association. I returned to Howth at about 11pm that evening.

This summer there will be a General Election here in the Republic. How confident are you that Labour will end up in Government?

I'm quietly confident that Labour will end up in government after the next general election. I meet daily with constituents and the general perception does seem to be that people are tired of this tired government. People often say to me that 17 years out of the last 20 or 10 years in power is enough. I believe there will be a change and that Labour will be part of it.

If you could change three things about Irish society what would you change and why?

We must abolish the two-tier health system. The current level of waiting lists are simply unacceptable as is the ongoing crisis situation in A&E departments. There is also an appalling level of anti-social behaviour and vandalism in some estates across the country. Too many widows and widowers and other vulnerable people living on their own are living in fear and terror in their own homes. I believe that the Gardai must be properly resourced and have a more community oriented focus to tackle persistent anti-social behaviour. The current housing calamity must also be addressed. Too many people across the country are unable to afford to buy their own home and settle in their own communitites. 80/90,000 homes are being built a year and there are still 3,500 people on local housing lists in Dublin North East. Labour in government will implement our 'Begin to Buy' scheme which will enable more people to begin to buy their own home.

What are your thoughts on a United Ireland?

I strongly believe in a united Ireland. In fact, it is already on its way in the economic area, for example with the Single Electricity Market (SEM) that should come on stream in November and in areas such as the Inland Waterways body. There is significantly more interaction taking place between North and South and the outstanding example of the all island rugby team shows what can be achieved with North/South cooperation.

What do you think should be done to improve the situation in Northern Ireland?

We must continue to work along the lines that were first laid out thirty years ago by John Hume and the SDLP and which have proved to be the most effective way of making progress between the two communities. There has been a lot of success in Northern Ireland since 1994 and I believe there is more to come.

I noticed you have been critical of Minister for Education Mary Hanafin on a number of issues. What are your thoughts on her and the government's performance on Education?

All children should have equality of educational opportunity. However, Minister Hanafin and her predecessor have done little to achieve this critical objective. Primary class sizes in Irish primary schools are the second highest in the EU and too many children are forced to learn in classes of 28 plus. Minister Hanafin is also failing to put the resources in place to eliminate waiting lists for children with autism and special needs. I welcome the new emphasis on 4th level education but we need to ensure that there is a firm foundation at first and second level for all the children in the country.

You are Labour's Spokesperson on Communications. What are your thoughts on the broadband services available in this country?

Broadband rollout under Minister Dempsey has been an absolute disaster. We were supposed to have 500,000 lines supplied by mid-2004 and we are only starting to approach that target now nearly three years later. Last November's Eurostat survey reported that at just 13% Ireland had one of the lowest household broadband connection rates of the EU 25. Only Cyprus (12%), Slovakia (11%) and Greece (4%) performed worse, while the Netherlands achieved 66%.

This is having a serious effect on too many families and local communities across the country. I was recently contacted by residents in Kilmoganny, Co. Kilkenny, for example, who are desperate for broadband services for their area. Over 150 local Kilmoganny residents signed a petition and forwarded it to Eircom to urge the company to upgrade the Kilmoganny Telephone Exchange and provide essential broadband services. Yet Minister Dempsey has as yet failed to bring forward his promised replacement for the rural Group Broadband Scheme, or his proposals to achieve the 100% broadband enablement of the country as has long been the case in Northern Ireland.

You were first elected as a TD for Dublin North East in 1992 and you've managed to hold on to your seat ever since. Do you anticipate a tough battle for your seat this year and are you confident of being re-elected once more?

It will be very tough in Dublin North East this time round, as it always is. This will be my 7th election campaign, and my 5th for the Dail and it has always been a battle. It is a three seater constituency which currently has two Fianna Fail T.D.s and myself representing Labour. There will be a major challenge from Fine Gael and Sinn Fein and I also think that we shouldn't underestimate the Greens.

From talking to your constituents, what are you finding their biggest concerns to be?

Health, policing and anti-social behaviour, housing, planning and facilities in the new city of the North Fringe in Dublin North East and public transport are constantly being raised on the doorsteps with me.

What do you think will constitute success for Labour in this election? How many seats would you expect the party to pick up?

Success in this election would be achieving 28 to 35 seats. I'm looking for a gain of at least 7 seats to 28 Labour T.D.s in Dail Eireann.

How do you think Sinn Féin will do in this year's election?

Going by the polls of the past three or four years, they should get about eight seats.

What would another term of Fianna Fáil and the PDs mean for Ireland?

More of the same. They have been a wasteful, turgid government and have squandered much of the gains of the boom. They lack ambition and vision for Ireland and are years behind on roads, public transport, energy, communications and broadband. I agree with the recent slogan used by the nurses protesting at Minister Harney's policies, "A third term for Fianna Fail/PDs? No way."

What do you hope Ireland to be like twenty years from now?

An island at peace with itself, and with perhaps seven million inhabitants. It should be a high quality knowledge economy with a lot of our energy being produced from indigenous renewable energy sources. I hope for well planned cities and towns and good public transport infrastructure and that all of the newcomers who have arrived into Ireland since the late 1990s will be well integrated. The precious rural environment and our large seas should be well protected and cherished. I hope 2027 will also see a Labour/SDLP government in its second or third term.

What would you say to anyone reading now who isn't sure who to vote for in the next General Election?

It's time to make a change. I believe that a change towards Labour and its allies would establish a new government that person for person will be better and more committed. We have a vision of a fairer Ireland with a stronger sense of society and community support for each other.

What does the future hold in store for you?

In local government I led the Rainbow Civic Alliance (at Dublin City Council) for eight years. Unfortunately, it had little power though there were many achievements where the City Manager followed the agenda of Labour, Fine Gael, the Greens, Workers' Party/Democratic Left. After ten years in opposition I'd like to be in government. If the electors of Dublin North East decide against sending me back (as is their prerogative) I'll happily return to my former work in education and my ongoing interest in local development and small business.

Finally I'd like to play a small round of word association. I'm sure you know what it entails. Basically just outline what word comes into your head when you hear the following:

Bertie Ahern - Turf Accountant
Enda Kenny - Mayo
Pat Rabbitte - Order of Business
Mary Hanafin - Form Teacher
Michael McDowell - Gonzaga
Labour - Family
Fianna Fáil - New Money
Fine Gael - Old Money
Sinn Féin - 1970s
Tommy Broughan - Northside

Best of luck to Tommy in his bid to retain his Dublin North East seat.

Stay tuned to United Irelander for future interviews. Previous interviews can be read here.


Today in History - Dana wins Eurovision

You'll be delighted to learn that it was on this day, March 21st, 1970, that Dana won Ireland the Eurovision for the very first time with "All Kinds of Everything". You can check it out below...

Personally I don't like it. I think we have had better ones than that. You can see footage of Dana's win below. I love how excited the Irish presenter is, "Our own Dana has won the Eurovision song contest! Oh isn't this marvellous?"

We went on to win it another 6 times and still remain the country to have won it the most times. Will we win it for an 8th time? Well here's our entry for this year. What do you think?

I'm thinking NO. Clearly we have gone down the "diddly-eye" route this year. I think the outcome is a song that tries way too hard. Also that singer hurts my ears with her constant wailing. We probably would have been better off going with something along the lines of this...

We can't top that.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Why Irish Unity needs to happen

I was asked by a United Irelander reader last week to explain what I felt were the pros and cons of Irish reunification.

I have discussed this before on the site but since time moves on fast here in Ireland I figured I'd return to the issue once more.

Discussing the positive and negative aspects of Irish Unity is always going to be difficult because it is, at its most basic level, an emotive issue. Some people don't want to hear the argument. This post is not aimed towards those people, but rather those unionists and nationalists who are willing to look at the issue from a logical standpoint.

With that being said, permit me to outline what I feel are the positive and negative aspects of Irish reunification for both sides of the island of Ireland...

Positives for the people of Northern Ireland

Greater economic prosperity

It has now become widely accepted that in order for NI to become both competitive and economically successful, its future must be tied closely with the southern half of the island. Even NI's Secretary State Peter Hain concluded that the economy of the Northern Ireland entity was "not sustainable in the long term" and that it was becoming increasingly difficult to look at the economy of North and South except as "a sort of island of Ireland economy". You may recall that DUP leader Ian Paisley's initial response to this was to call for Hain's resignation - of course that was quietly dropped when leading economists acknowledged that Hain was talking a lot of sense!

In fact we now have the extraordinary situation where the DUP are, along with other parties in the North, calling on the British Chancellor and PM in waiting Gordon Brown to lower the North's rate of corporation tax so as to bring it in line with the rate south of the border.

Of course traditionally this is where the campaign for a United Ireland fell flat on its face - the poor economic condition of the south. The Republic was the economic equivalent of a blind, baby kitten. Nowadays that kitten has matured into a wide-eyed Celtic Tiger that is the envy of many a state in Europe. These days we have the Republic pledging to invest substantially in NI in the event of power-sharing being restored. This scenario would have been thought ridiculous around 15 years ago yet it is now the reality.

Respected economic figures such as David McWilliams and Douglas Hamilton believe that a United Ireland would be economically viable and greater economic co-operation is being regarded as the way forward, for example through the new single electricity market that will cover north and south. If we simply had one state on this island we would be more likely to avail of opportunities in the marketplace.

I think it's worth the people of NI asking themselves if they would prefer to maintain a status quo whereby the British subsidise the region annually to the tune of £1.5bn, or to instead become partners in an entirely new venture where they can contribute and make a real difference in building a new island of Ireland.

An end to the petty bickering and sectarian politics

Question Time, Questions and Answers, Let's Talk, Hearts and Minds, you've all seen the programmes where NI parties have been featured and you all know the drill - "Party A is bad, Party B is good". "No Party B is bad, Party A is good". And round and round they go. INCESSANTLY. I once interviewed Fianna Fáil's Mayor of Letterkenny Damien Blake who made the following point which I agree with wholeheartedly...

"I'll never forget watching (I think) a Let's Talk special before the last election in the North, with reps of the four main parties debating before a large audience. Not once did they discuss education, economics or healthcare. This isn't good for politics, and it's clearly not good for the regions these politicians represent."

It isn't good for politics but it's all these parties know. I submit to you that the parties are not the ones really at fault for this but rather the SYSTEM within which they operate. The north of Ireland is still defined by tribal politics. Orange vs Green. Why? Because the constitutional question has not been resolved yet.

This is not the case in the Republic of Ireland where economics, education, healthcare, crime, finance and so forth are the main issues of the day. By being part of an all island entity and a SYSTEM THAT WORKS the people of the North would see and end to the petty bickering that stalls the Northern entity interminably. Solve the constitutional question and you can get down to politics that works.

Greater level of political power

Following on from my above point, if the issue of partition is resolved then it would mean the people of the North having their parties deal with the 'bread and butter' issues of the day. One can only speculate on how an all-island entity would function but I find it hard to believe that the parties of the North, both unionist and nationalist, would consent to leaving everything to Dublin to sort out. In fact, if they did so, I wager Sinn Féin with their leftist policies and questionable economic beliefs would find themselves in a very unappealing position. It wouldn't surprise me if some sort of loose federal arrangement was worked out, perhaps building on the current Northern Ireland entity along with the three other Ulster counties of Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan. Still, some form of national dialogue would be required for issues that affect the entire island and it's in this area that the northern parties would wield significant power.

In the United Kingdom the North's parties are an irrelevance. Perceived to be a confusing, peculiar, argumentative bunch who are never happy and best left alone. They hold little influence on the UK as a whole, particularly in the British First-Past-The-Post system. However, in a United Ireland, northern influence, an Ulster bloc if you will, would hold a significant degree of power. No longer bit-players but rather at the forefront of national developments, particularly with the Irish Proportional Representation system.

It pains me to an extent to have to say this but I see European expansion and integration as a slow and gradual inevitability. In fifty years time "nationalism" will most likely have become the irrelevance. In such a situation, well managed northern interests would be at the forefront of Irish national plans.

Reason, not treason

People within unionism who talk of Irish reunification as having potentially great benefit for people of the North might be met with words like "traitor" or "Lundy" but this does not add up when looking at the history of this island.

Many within unionism may be unaware of the original Irish volunteers, the group from the 1780s, who appeared more than a century before the inception of the more well-known group of the same name. However the original Irish Volunteers were formed in Belfast, were 40,000 strong and half of them came from Ulster. They were mainly drawn from the Protestant urban and rural middle classes. They were loyal to the Crown and were strongly influenced by American ideas. Why do I bring this up you ask?

Because their aim was to secure legislative freedom for the Dublin parliament, later known as "Grattan's parliament." Strange how things turn out eh?

Let us not forget either that Presbyterians suffered much at the hands of the British, so much so that many were very much involved in the United Irishmen's efforts to make Ireland a separate and free republic.

As time moved on we got to a point where unionists felt they were better off remaining part of the Union, and, unlike their ancestors, felt they were better being as close to the British as possible. They also began to oppose the idea of Home Rule and legislative independence for Ireland. Still, it was not the aim of unionism to partition the island and Edward Carson, the leading figure of unionism, was against the notion. He sought to use it only as a threat to make the Home Rulers back down but it was extremist elements of unionism that ran with the idea. This was more to do with anti-Catholic hostility ("Home Rule is Rome Rule") rather than a commitment to the Union.

In fact, many unionists might be unaware that James Craig actually sought to have Home Rule for Northern Ireland which would have meant leaving the UK as the Irish Free State did! A proposal that infuriated Lloyd George and the other British delegates:

"Craig's suggestion of dominion status for Northern Ireland made the unionists intensely unpopular and the British cabinet resented their sabotage of its plans for a settlement with Irish nationalists." - 'The Partition of Ireland: 1911-1925' by Prof. Michael Laffan.

So I put it to unionists that the idea they must remain part of the United Kingdom in order to stay true to what traditional unionism stands for is, in actual fact, contrary to what traditional unionism has stood for!

Better without a border
Is a border really necessary?

Negatives for the people of Northern Ireland


I was going to write instability as the title of this topic until I realised that implying the current entity is stable would be stretching things quite a bit. One of the negatives of reunification however would involve the changes that would take place as a result. Clearly then it would make sense to try and make it as slow and as easy as possible. A process rather than an event. People would want to know that their bins would be collected at the same time, their paper delivered in the same way, their route to work would remain the same and so on and so forth.

It would all come down to how people adapted to changes such as all-island institutions, all-island symbols, all-island groups and, generally, an all-island attitude of life. What I would say is that, as a citizen of Dublin, I have seen my city change and alter in dramatic fashion in a very short space of time and I think myself and the majority of people in the city have adapted to it pretty well. My guess is that certain areas would adapt better than others. In Tyrone, Fermanagh, South Armagh, Derry, Down I could see changes implemented rather well. I think in parts of Antrim change would prove very difficult for some.

Positives for the people of the south of Ireland

Greater resources

Gaining over a million citizens and the creation of a new state could create great opportunities and further Ireland's chances of proving a force in Europe. An all-island entity could see a greater degree of investment assuming the economic transition is a smooth one. The decision by the Republic to invest in the North if power-sharing is restored, for example through improving all-island infrastructure, proves that there is financial benefit to be had for the south too.

Lifting of a burden

It would be dishonest to suggest that the British government are the only ones to bear the burden of the North's woes. The south has, in a lot of ways, been affected by events in the North and even today we can see the importance of events in the north to the island as a whole by the amount of time devoted to the region. In fact, Bertie Ahern is on record as saying that dealing with the issue of Northern Ireland is the most important for a Taoiseach. If the constitutional question was resolved once and for all then the people of the south, like the people of the north, could look to the future without dwelling on events of the past.

Negatives for the people of the south of Ireland


This works both ways. How would the people of the south have to deal with the inevitable compromises that a new state would bring? Would the people countenance things such as a new anthem, a higher degree of taxation to help the transition, and, perhaps, a new flag to boot? Many of these would prove very emotive issues. It's also worth pointing out that the Republic is primarily about treating citizens as equals so many might prove resentful about having to make so many changes to please a minority. Clearly a lot of dialogue would be necessary.


It is hard to say how extremist Republican groups would react to some of the potential changes that might be necessary to incorporate unionists in a fair manner. It is also hard to say how extremist Loyalist groups would react to the transition. It would come down to making the changes as transparent and as fair as humanly possible. It would have to be about a common agenda and not individual interests.

So there you have it. That is my take on the pros and cons, the positives and negatives, of Irish reunification. Ultimately it comes down to weighing up both sides and balancing both aspects of the argument to see what you feel is most beneficial for the future.

As I touched on above this can prove very tough when dealing with a largely emotive and complex issue. For some it will prove impossible.

Like those in Scotland who desire separation from the UK and an independent state, we here in Ireland who desire a similar arrangement must make it as reasonable an arrangement as can be.

It is my belief that the reunification of Ireland offers the fairest and best solution for ALL groups that inhabit this small island of ours. It is up to people of all races, colours and creeds to reflect on the opportunities available and make their mind up on what they feel is the best course of action.

That is my take on Irish Unity but what are your thoughts?

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Paddy's Day in pictures

The St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin...

Fun day
Over 600,000 attended but I watched the rugby instead


Though maybe I should have gone after all...

Yours truly went out during the evening and sampled some of the atmosphere...

Party time
Is that girl in the middle flipping me off? Irish charm indeed!

St Patrick's Day parade, Co. Cork...

I'm guessing that isn't the Orange Order

St Patrick's Day parade, Newry...

I have noy soynd economic plansh
In a great gesture Gerry Adams was allowed to march this year

St Patrick's Day parade, London...

Go on your grace!
The Archbishop of Canterbury got involved I see

St Patrick's Day parade, New York...

Kiss him he's Irish
Some guys just get all the luck

In Washington, the Taoiseach gave President Bush some plants he found in his back garden...

Great, just like the ones from last year
"You shouldn't have Bertie - seriously"

Festivities took place in Toronto, Canada...

Bet this was cheaper than the places in Dublin
Choose better coloured shirts next time fellas

In Sydney, Australia...

Riverdance lives on
Aussie Rules Irish dancing - they have to kick each other at the end

As well as Tokyo, Japan...

Give this man a Guinness quick

In Rome the Italians joined in the celebrations...

Go get 'em!
Luck of the Irish is right...

Being pipped by France for the Six Nations championship put a bit of a dampener on the day...

So near and yet so far

But we had cause to celebrate some more as the Irish cricket team caused a huge upset by knocking out Pakistan...

Well done boys
Pakistan were sent packing

All in all I thought it was a fun St Patrick's Day. Weather wasn't too bad and the celebrations were colourful. Town was really packed with people and my pub crawl took in a lot of places. Coming so close to winning the Six Nations but missing out on points was agonising but hey we'll recover from it, plus we now have a cricket team to cheer on.

Hope you all had an enjoyable St Patrick's Day. As much as I enjoy March 17th though, March 18th is a right old pain - especially in the head and stomach. Ugh.

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