Follow these links to find out more: https://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/55727
Follow these links to find out more: https://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/55727
The threat to the future of the UK doesn’t just come from Irish republicanism: English and, more importantly, Scottish nationalism poses an equivalent danger, says Don Anderson
This general election is, of course, being hailed everywhere as a watershed moment for the United Kingdom. The Conservative landslide will get Brexit done – that’s the big watershed – but more than one watershed has been crossed.
Nothing illustrated this more than the plaintive cry from the DUP’s Sammy Wilson in the wake of the election that the Prime Minister should go ahead with the horrendously expensive bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland (this was a DUP manifesto pledge).
It is not immediately obvious to me how a bridge joining the Scottish anti-unionist bastion to a shaky – and shaken – unionist one on this side would benefit unionism, but that is the DUP’s belief. More interestingly, Mr Wilson, speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, was postulating that one of the big themes of the new Parliament will be how to protect the Union of the United Kingdom, given the strong showing of nationalist parties in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
He appears to be worried about the situation that unionism, as a whole, has landed itself in. “This idea that parts of the UK are being governed by remote control by southern English men and women, it’s one of the driving factors of nationalism,” the DUP MP said. “We would love to talk to him (Boris) about the things he can do to make sure that a sense of isolation is not engendered.”
Too late, Mr Wilson. That sense of isolation is already engendered in many quarters here, perhaps more so among the unionist population than among nationalists. And, anyway, I can’t imagine that talking to the DUP will be high on the Prime Minister’s list of priorities, since he will be putting an economic border in the Irish Sea notwithstanding DUP apoplexy. The Conservatives are friends no longer. Is anyone over there?
Last week, Ed Curran, a distinguished former editor of this paper but also a one-time leader of the Young Unionists, wrote in these pages an excoriating analysis of where unionism now stands. He accused the DUP of making an unholy mess at home and in London. “How all this pans out in the year ahead is anybody’s guess. Like it or not, Northern Ireland’s future is at the Brexit mercy of Boris Johnson and his new government,” he wrote.
Inevitably, others will begin to guess at a future, so here goes. First, nothing will happen immediately. In the face of strong Conservative opposition, it will take the Scottish nationalists at least the lifetime of this Parliament to make progress on the issue of a Scottish referendum.
What happens in Scotland in the meantime will impact upon Northern Ireland and, inevitably, constitutional tensions will mount. If that happens, will Scottish flags begin to migrate from fraternal loyalist lamp-posts to the top of bonfires? If so, then the feeling of loyalist and unionist isolation will grow further. Mr Wilson may, or may not, be anticipating that.
There is undoubtedly a fear within the Westminster corridors of power that, if unionist fears are heightened, then the marching season could be focusing on perfidious Albion, with consequences. Could there be something like another Ulster Workers’ Council-type general strike against British policy? A remote possibility, I venture, since loyalist voices have already been heard, stating that anything along these lines would not only be futile, but would merely serve to reinforce English perceptions that this place wasn’t all that British, emphatically not as British as Yorkshire.
That, in turn, points to an almost unspoken fear among the unionist fraternity, which is that the link to Great Britain could be severed from the English end.
Is that what is beginning to happen? Some believe so, because Brexit has exposed that Northern Ireland is costing the British Exchequer at least as much as EU membership. Are there unionists – of any party – contemplating this political shift? If not, the future of the unionist community in Northern Ireland may be decided unilaterally by those remote southern English men and women of whom Sammy Wilson spoke. They might say goodbye to a nuisance.
The history of political parties on the unionist spectrum is littered with the political cadavers of leaders who strayed over much from what their fathers and grandfathers did. If this mindset continues, then the outcome could eventually be uncomfortable – even distressing – for unionism.
The time for radical thinking is right now, because the old certainties, among them a unionist voting majority for ever and a day and an Orange card as a political trump card, are fading.
There should be a discussion among unionists as to what strategies are possible if the Orange wall no longer holds. As has happened so often in the past, those exploring new, even extraordinary, scenarios should not be branded traitors to the cause.
Honest, strategic thinking becomes impossible otherwise. The lack of clear strategic thinking has served unionism very badly.
Political parties do not relish having new courses of action, or new lines of thought, being imposed from outside. We can see the pain of the Labour Party in Britain in the wake of a drubbing at the hustings. This is imposing a rethink of strategies from the ground up, a disheartening process that should have been done years ago. An honest analysis of their situation at the outset would have placed them very differently for last week’s election.
If unionists want to politically influence what is to happen to them over the near or distant future, then men and women in the proverbial grey suits ought to be gathering in quiet rooms and sounding out ideas, some of which should ponder possibilities if the United Kingdom disappears. Sammy Wilson has demonstrated through his remarks that he thinks the Union is in peril from more than the usual directions.
That’s a start.
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Don Anderson for the original story
Don Anderson is a writer and broadcaster. He is the author of 14 May Days: The Inside Story Of The Loyalist Strike Of 1974 (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1994)
Sinn Fein MLAs Megan Fearon and Mairtin O Muilleoir have announced they are quitting the North of Ireland Assembly.
Both were former ministers in the Executive.
Sinn Fein’s leader in the North of Ireland Michelle O’Neill paid tribute to both. She said they had worked “tirelessly to deliver for citizens and to build a new, just and united Ireland”.
“They both will remain republican activists and advocates for equality, justice and liberty,” she said.
Mairtin O Muilleoir has been one of the party’s most senior members. He was a former Lord Mayor of Belfast before becoming South Belfast MLA. He was the last finance minister Stormont had before its collapse and set up the RHI Inquiry as one of his final acts in the post.
Mr O Muilleoir had previously served on Belfast City Council for a decade up until 1997 before quitting politics to concentrate on his newspaper business.
The fluent Irish speaker wrote a book, The Dome of Delight, documenting his experiences as a Belfast councillor during the tense 1980s when there were fist fights and bitter exchanges between unionist and nationalist representatives.
He returned to politics in 2011 and became Belfast Lord Mayor in 2013. In 2014, he was co-opted onto the Assembly as MLA.
“It has been the greatest privilege of my life to represent the people of south and west Belfast for Sinn Fein in both City Hall and Stormont,” he said.
“But it is now time for me to hand over to a representative of a newer generation of republican activists.
“I want to thank all of those who have given me their support and assure them that I will remain a determined advocate of a better Belfast and a new and united Ireland.”
Following the General Election results last week which saw the DUP’s Carla Lockhart, the SDLP’s Colum Eastwood and Claire Hanna and Alliance’s Stephen Farry win seats in the Commons, there are now six free seats in the Assembly. The parties are expected to begin the co-option process later in the week.
Megan Fearon said her time in electoral politics had come to an end and it was time for a new challenge. She has represented Newry and Armagh for the past seven years.
The 28-year-old she was the youngest person ever to enter the Assembly. Prior she studied politics, philosophy and economics at Queen’s University Belfast.
She served as junior minister to Martin McGuinness in The Executive Office and was a member of the Finance, Economy and OFMDFM Committees as well as the All Party Group for Children and Young People and was Vice Chair of the All Party Group on Women, Peace and Security.
She was the party spokeswoman on equality and social justice.
“Representing Sinn Fein and the people of South Armagh has been an honour and one that I never took lightly,” she said.
“I want to thank every single activist and voter for their support and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve.
“It’s been a pleasure to be part of the Sinn Fein team, both locally and nationally both as an MLA and on the Executive. I want to wish my colleagues well in the future and thank them for their friendship.
“Over the years this role has allowed me to meet the most inspiring people, make friends for life and have many unforgettable experiences.
“Working towards a new Ireland based on fairness and equality is a huge part of who I am. I will always be an activist, but my time in electoral politics has ended.
“I am excited to begin a new chapter in life and I want to thank everyone who has been part of this journey.”
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald thanked both for their work and service for the party.
“Both were excellent MLAs providing first class representation in their constituencies and also on the Executive where both served with distinction as ministers,” she said.
“I have known both for many years and they are hardworking and dedicated representatives, committed to improving the quality of life for all.
“I wish both of them well in the future and I’m confident they will continue working to build a new and united Ireland.
“I’m sure whoever is selected to replace them will provide the same high standard of representation for the people they represent.”
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Johnathan Bell for the original story
A Queen’s University law professor has proposed a date for two polls on Irish unity
The academic said votes on the issue should be held in Northern Ireland and the Republic on May 22, 2023 – 25 years on from the referendum ratifying the Good Friday Agreement.
He explained this would give both governments time to allow for “the required levels of preparation”.
Senator urges long-term planning for Irish unity
University professor claims DUP ‘self-harming’ Northern Ireland
Speaking at a meeting of members of the Franco-British Lawyers Society Colloquium in Belfast earlier this week, Prof Harvey said the Brexit vote has opened up a new constitutional path for the island of Ireland.
“Making use of the arrangements to test the principle of consent/right to self-determination – at the appropriate time and with proper preparation – should provoke no one. Planning has commenced; governments will catch up,” he said.
“The entitlement to hold a view on whether that outcome is a good or bad thing is hard wired into our supposed ‘new beginning’ here. The key is that constitutional conversations are guided by the values of the Good Friday Agreement, and that new configurations follow informed dialogue, respectful debate and proper planning.”
Prof Harvey said both unity polls would be organised within the framework of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and include setting up a Citizens’ Assembly to discuss the issue and installing a “Minister for reunification of Ireland”.
“Such an approach would end speculation about the criteria and required evidence that will trigger such a step – but will not end disagreement and challenge on, for example, the question to be asked and who will be eligible to vote,” he said.
“Both governments – through a new Joint Declaration and associated domestic law and policy changes – would set and implement the framework, following extensive, wide and deep consultation and engagement – including, but not limited to, political parties.”
“The academic has outlined his arguments on the issue in a paper entitled “Navigating Brexit – Icebergs Ahead? UK, Irish, French and EU perspectives”.
Since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, calls for a referendum on Irish unity from Sinn Fein have ramped up.
Earlier this month, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald such a poll should only be called after the appropriate “spade work” deciding what a united Ireland would look like has been carried out.
She said this planning would take around two years to complete and called on the Irish Government to convene a forum to discuss the issue.
“We need to talk about Ireland post-Brexit, we need to talk about the border, we need to talk about partition, we need to talk about the unity referendum,” she said.
“And we need to do the spade work because I think it’s entirely reasonable that people would say, ‘Well, what does this new Ireland look like in terms of human rights, civil rights, system of governance, but also in terms of bread and butter, people’s livelihoods and the prosperity of the island?’”
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the original story
The March For Irish Unity walked from Lifford in the Irish Republic to Strabane in The North of Ireland
A march has taken place across the Irish border calling for the unification of the island.
Participants gathered in the Co Donegal town of Lifford in the Irish Republic before walking across a bridge into the nearby Co Tyrone town of Strabane in Northern Ireland.
There were calls for “Irish unity now” from marchers, many of whom were holding Irish flags, during the procession.
Marching towards the Republic#MarchForUnity pic.twitter.com/tTXaC2D67v
— Ógra Shinn Féin ⭕️ (@Ogra_SF) November 24, 2019
Sinn Fein chairman Declan Kearney, West Tyrone election candidate Orfhlaith Begley and Donegal TD Pearse Doherty were among those at the March For Unity.
Addressing the crowd in Strabane, event organiser Liam Sweeney said partition has “failed Ireland”.
“Our message is a simple message, if the Irish unity community can come together and co-operate on our common goal, we can successfully tackle any issues that we face,” he said.
“Using our collective people power we can build a new united Irish republic that cherishes all of its children equally.
“Partition has failed consecutive generations of Irish people, wrecking havoc on border communities. This town has been decimated by it over the years. Partition has prevented our entire island from reaching its true social, economic and cultural potential.
“A divided partitioned Ireland can only perpetuate the cycle of division. We aim to unite Ireland and its people.
“This march today will send out a clear message from peaceful, anti-sectarian, grassroots republicanism that a united Ireland will generate a transformative power on which a new republic can be built.
“March For Irish Unity is a non-party political, grassroots, anti-sectarian and peaceful initiative aiming at mobilising the collective and vibrant Irish unity community for a new and united Ireland.”
With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Rebecca Black, PA for the original story