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The "Intellectual Weakness" of Irish Nationalism

by Frank Schnittger Thu Jun 20th, 2019 at 11:51:27 PM EST

Letter published in the Irish Times...

Northern Ireland and staying in UK

A chara, - You cite Lord Paul Bew, who teaches Irish history and politics at Queen's University Belfast (QUB), as saying, "Theresa May's successor must make the case for the union consistently". He also highlights what he describes as the "intellectual weakness" of the case for a united Ireland".


He has published his paper through Policy Exchange, a right-of-centre UK think tank which is frequently cited as influential on Tory Party policymaking, together with a foreword by Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, and who proposed the Brady amendment to pursue alternative solutions to the backstop.

Ironically, he describes the nationalist case for a united Ireland as based on falsifiable or insupportable suppositions, when it is the DUP and British government which have singularly failed to show any practical alternative solution to the backstop working anywhere in the world.

He argues that "a new, modern case for the union must be developed, based on the principle of consent", when that is precisely what is enshrined in the 1998 Belfast Agreement, then resisted by the DUP, and which Brexiteers and unionists are now so anxious to undermine.

Northern Ireland voted 56 per cent to 44 per cent to remain in the EU and it is the DUP, with 22 per cent support in the recent European Parliament elections, which is pursuing a Brexit agenda, in cahoots with a Conservative government, against the consent of the majority.

Perhaps the good professor needs to examine the "intellectual weaknesses" in his own position. - Yours, etc,

FRANK SCHNITTGER


Paul Bew is not your average unionist. He was briefly a member of the tiny British and Irish Communist Organisation, which advocated the Two Nations Theory of Northern Ireland, and a member of the Workers' Party of Ireland, then known as Official Sinn Fein. He was later involved in the peace process leading up to Good Friday Agreement as an advisor to Unionist leader, David Trimble. In more recent years he has moved steadily to the right as a member of the neo-conservative Henry Jackson society and contributor to the right wing British Spectator magazine.

Still, I was a little shocked at the nakedly partisan unionist tone of his contribution to the Policy Exchange think tank, the full text of which is available here. There isn't a huge step from arguing that there are "intellectual weaknesses" in the case for Irish unity to arguing that Irish nationalists are intellectually inferior.

The truth is that Irish nationalists are well aware of the difficulties associated with Irish re-unification which is why almost no one is advocating it as an immediate solution to current problems, and even Sinn Fein calls for a referendum on Irish re-unification are more of a dog whistle to their supporters to paper over the many divisions in their ranks. Few doubt that a referendum now would still yield a narrow majority for N. Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom, and most want to avoid such a divisive campaign which will only heighten unionist fears and insecurity bordering on paranoia.

Indeed, it has long been my view that calls for Irish unity in the absence of a comprehensive plan to safeguard the rights of unionists, manage what will undoubtedly be a difficult transition period, and describe in great detail what a united Ireland would look like are counter-productive and just trolling the unionist community into voting on sectarian lines. Indeed, fears of an enforced and unjust Irish re-unification process is the glue which keeps an otherwise disparate unionist community in a permanent state of fearful political paralysis and enforced unity.

More often than not any discussions about unity are hyped by the unionist side as a means of consolidating their vote behind hard-line unionist candidates and parties. Therefore I was somewhat surprised to see Paul Bew engaging in such tactics when the issue right now is not Irish re-unification, but maintaining the gains of the Good Friday agreement by keeping the Irish border open post Brexit. His proposal that the Irish backstop be time limited simply plays into the standard unionist tactic of procrastination to put off the evil day when demographic changes will put their majority at risk. You can be sure there will be no progress towards "alternative measures" to keep the border open as any time limit on the backstop is wound down.

But Paul Bew's call for the next UK Prime Minster to constantly make the case for the Union with Britain also reveals the weakness and insecurity of his own position. There is no "intellectual" case for that union beyond the the wish of the current majority in N. Ireland to remain in that union (as is their right, under the Good Friday Agreement) and the reality is that N. Ireland, as a political and economic entity has failed. Brexit has undermined what nationalist "consent" there was to that arrangement - a fact on which Paul Bew is curiously silent for all his talk about consent.

But worse, the ongoing economic mismanagement of N. Ireland has resulted in its GDP/capita declining from twice the GDP/Capita of the Republic of Ireland at partition in 1922, to being only about half the Republics GDP/capita now. And this is in spite of the c. 10 Billion per annum subsidy from the British exchequer to N. Ireland - roughly equivalent to the UK's net contribution to the EU - for which British taxpayers get no benefits.

I suspect Paul Bew's intervention now is related to the failure of the DUP to secure a guarantee from Boris Johnson that he would not change the Irish Backstop to being a N. Ireland backstop only, effectively keeping N. Ireland in the Customs Union and Single Market even if Great Britain left. This would have the effect of keeping the Irish border open, but creating a new EU/GB border down the Irish sea which is a lot more manageable than trying to control 300 official and unofficial road crossings along a 500km land border even the British army could not police effectively during the Troubles.

For Boris Johnson this would have the benefit of constituting a fundamental renegotiation of May's Withdrawal Agreement and giving Great Britain the freedom to control immigration and negotiate its own Free Trade agreements - and therefore constitutes a platform he could campaign on in a general election if the DUP pulled the plug and voted no confidence in his government. He could be encouraged in this direction by the Daily Telegraph poll that he could win a 140 seat overall majority in the Commons, and by YouGov polls showing that Conservative party members would rather see the UK being broken up than remain in the EU.

The DUP would be caught between a rock and a hard place - forcing a general election which could bring Corbyn to power, or acquiescing to an arrangement which is eminently practicable and which has majority support in N. Ireland. Many in the DUP would see it as the beginning of the end for the Union, but they see that everywhere they look in any case. N. Ireland remaining in the Customs Union and Single market, whilst remaining in the UK, is the sort of eminently sensible compromise which is at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement which has brought 20 years of relative peace and stability in the North.

Paul Bew may get his society based on consent after all, but it will be a consent based on a wider demographic than the readership of Policy Exchange or the Tory party membership who constitute the electorate for the next UK Prime Minister.

Display:
Northern Ireland Brexit impact 'mapping exercise' finally released  

A previously confidential government study detailing 142 areas of life in Northern Ireland that will be impacted by Brexit has been published, revealing risks to everything from cooperation on congenital heart disease and cross-border child protection to rules preventing the looting of national treasures.

The study was published by the Brexit select committee after it was obtained by a member of the public via a freedom of information request.

The so-called "mapping exercise" was conducted in autumn 2017 but never shared with the select committee despite repeated requests from the chairman, the Labour MP Hilary Benn.

[...]

Ireland' prime minister Leo Varadkar said: "I'm glad that it now has been [published] and it really sketches out the very large number of areas where there is north-south cooperation, co-operation between Northern Ireland and Ireland. That cooperation is so much deeper than trade issues it applies to so many other things.

"[The mapping exercise] really sketches out what the Good Friday Agreement is all about, which is power sharing in the north and increased co-operation north south and east west. So when we talk about avoiding a hard border and also protecting the Good Friday Agreement they are not the same thing. It is both of those things that we seek to protect."

Brexit Mapping exercise by UK government on Northern Ireland

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.

by Oui on Fri Jun 21st, 2019 at 05:31:27 AM EST
I have added a very substantial "body text" to the diary above to provide some context for Paul Bew's intervention and my letter too the Editor in response.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jun 21st, 2019 at 09:32:41 AM EST
Despite being the overwhelming favourite to be the next Tory Party leader and prime Minister, Boris Johnson seems determined to blow that opportunity. Tory Party members may not be especially moral or social conservative, but they won't like their Prime Minister throwing his toys out of the pram in 10 Downing Street.

Of course for Boris it will all be a merry jape; what's so wrong with having a domestic where your partner repeatedly orders you to "get off me" and "get out of my flat" and you refuse? So what if the neighbours recorded your altercation where Ms Symonds is heard saying Mr Johnson had ruined a sofa with red wine: "You just don't care for anything because you're spoilt. You have no care for money or anything."

Just the sort of leader the Tories and Great Britain needs right now. Of course the DUP rather like Jeremy Hunt because of his social conservatism and less duplicitous ways... Expect Jeremy to emphasise his family life and conservative voting record in the leadership campaign...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jun 22nd, 2019 at 10:12:38 AM EST
Why can't we hear the recording for ourselves?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat Jun 22nd, 2019 at 10:14:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ask the neighbour or the Guardian, who seem to have the scoop...

No doubt it could play an important role in the leadership campaign...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jun 22nd, 2019 at 10:19:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If there's a very good bit, somebody should make it into a ringtone. Imagine it going off at random times during PMQ....
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat Jun 22nd, 2019 at 08:34:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Based on my experience here in the States I think you give Conservatives way too much credit.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Jun 22nd, 2019 at 01:56:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh they'll elect Boris all right, with a shrug of the shoulders and saying "well that's Boris after all". Hunt could make more of a match of it now though. Otherwise I would have had it 80:20 for Boris. Can you imagine the media outrage if Corbyn even raised his voice to a women? After all he is an anti-semite for supporting Palestinian rights...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jun 22nd, 2019 at 03:26:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well we all know who owns the media, and it ain't disinterested parties with any intellectual integrity.
by rifek on Mon Jun 24th, 2019 at 03:30:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A man who has P.J. O'Rourke'ed his way through life has no business commenting on anyone else's intellectual weakness.  Glass house, meet thrown stone.
by rifek on Mon Jun 24th, 2019 at 03:34:36 PM EST
In fairness to Paul Bew, he is no PJ O'Rourke. He has a respectable body of academic work behind him and his influence on Trimble during the Good Friday Agreement was probably for the best. I was surprised at his recent intervention, but it is perhaps more an indicator of the parochial mind-set of most unionists. They still think the EU is going to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement! Not going to happen, as Ivan Rogers has so eloquently argued.

The choice for Boris now is between a no deal Brexit, and N. Ireland remaining within the Customs Union and Single Market while Great Britain goes off in search of better free trade deals and limiting EU immigration. The benefits of the latter are largely illusory, so N. Ireland is actually getting the better end of the bargain, though not being an economist, Paul Bew may not see that. But N. Ireland is now in the glorious position of being bailed out to the tune of £10 Billion p.a. by the British exchequer, and so retaining the link with the UK trumps all.

In that context, remaining within the UK and within the Customs Union and Single Market is actually the best of both worlds, from a N. Ireland perspective, not to mention it is an elegant political compromise between the majority who want to remain within the UK and the majority who want to remain within the EU. The sort of compromise which is at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement - the equal status guaranteed to those who identify as either (or both) British and Irish (and therefore European.

In the past I would have seen Paul Bew as someone who would have argued for such a compromise. Now he is adopting a hard-line Brexiteer/DUP position. Sad.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 11:54:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bew made his name revisionist histories that in my in no way humble opinion enjoyed far too much tolerance.  And his Good Friday involvement just makes his current stance less excusable.  It isn't lack of understanding; he's bought.
by rifek on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 02:32:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That fits my opinion of Aristotle.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 03:39:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sure PJ O'Rourke would be chuffed to be mentioned in the same breath...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 05:18:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 09:48:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now there is Object Oriented Ontology for you.
by das monde on Wed Jun 26th, 2019 at 12:06:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I agree that Johnston's plan will be to sell the Unionists down the river to achieve brexit. And, tbh it's the "sensible" solution, one that I imagine will attract enough Labour votes to get it through.

But I think that a few years, maybe even a decade of a post-brexit Ulster will convince a significant majority that their future lies in a united Ireland. The British economy will collapse and Westminster will no longer be able to indulge the tantrums of the DUP.

The nationalists can wait this one out

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jun 24th, 2019 at 06:02:29 PM EST
As Frank mentioned repeatedly, NI standards of living which were double of the Republic 40 years ago are now barely half. Fundamentalism has a cost.

Eventually adding NI to a re-unified Ireland, would be proportionally a much bigger effort than the German re-unification.

by Bernard on Mon Jun 24th, 2019 at 06:34:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, we can hope NI isn't an endless vista of secret toxic waste dumps and industrial rubble.
by rifek on Mon Jun 24th, 2019 at 07:24:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The "toxic waste dumps and industrial rubble" is mostly encapsulated in the sectarian "culture" of paramilitary gangs and the siege mentality of the communities which host them...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jun 24th, 2019 at 09:06:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and Westminster will no longer be able to indulge the tantrums of the DUP.

May I suggest that the recent indulgence of the DUP is relatively small compared to the continuing annual "subsidy" needed to keep NI in the UK, one reason that Irish re-unification is unlikely to happen without equivalent subsidy from the EU - Dublin can't afford it.

From the UK Office of National Statistics - Country and regional public sector finances: financial year ending 2018 the Net fiscal deficit for Northern Ireland is about £9.17 Billion or £4939 per head of the NI population in year 2017/8.  

I am sure someone can find a way to express that on the side of a bus if the need arises.

You can check my interpretation, along with the (smaller) deficits for Wales, Scotland and the English regions, in Section 4 of the the ONS report

by oldremainmer48 on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 07:32:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The most commonly quoted figure is c. 10 Billion, although there is some dispute as to how to calculate it most accurately. Either way it has probably reached £10 Billion by now, what with the DUP having negotiated an extra 1 Billion in subsidies for N. Ireland as part of their deal with the Conservatives - although apparently a lot of that is held up by the failure of the N. I. Legislative assembly which has been prorogued for over 2 years...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 12:01:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but that was pre-brexit.

When the UK economy collapses taking sterling with it, I imagine that, even if the Treasury were willing to keep forking out £10 billion to sustain a failed colonial project, such will be the devaluation, that money will be signicantly reduced in value compared with the lost euro trade with the republic.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 12:30:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you want to understand why Irish and English attitudes to Europe are so different, Fintan O'Toole has a stab at explaining it here...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 02:25:01 PM EST
Behind a paywall.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 03:32:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the things we are experiencing at the moment is a gulf of comprehension between large parts of the English establishment (the Brexity parts) and Ireland.

It has many facets, but one of them has to do with a difference in cultural genealogy. Most of the great works of modern English literature and art were created in England or, at very least, within the empire. But on the other hand, it is very hard to think of modern Irish literature and art without thinking of continental Europe.

While Ireland and England are much more alike than we Irish like to admit, there is a gulf between us when it comes to attitudes to Europe

John Synge and WB Yeats, the great collaborators (with Augusta Gregory) in the creation of the Abbey, didn't meet in Sligo or on the Aran Islands - they met in Paris. So did Joyce and Samuel Beckett. Most of Eileen Grey's great design work was done in France. Kate O'Brien really became a writer in Spain, as did Colm Toibín. And so on.

When Joyce and Nora Barnacle left Dublin in 1904, they didn't go to London or New York. They made their way to Trieste, where on their very first night, Joyce got himself arrested after being caught up in a brawl with English sailors.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 05:09:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Only Literature graduates think literature defines a culture.

Almost nobody involved in brexit talks about Shakespeare, let alone any other writer.

However they o talk about the inherited national mythologies of Trafalgar, Brunel, Empire and the Industrial revolution, the Battle of Britain, winston churchill, D-Day; all fed into their psyches almost from mothers milk and daily by tabloids and the political knaves who parrot this drivel Two world wars and one world cup, it's coming home.

An aggressive militaristic history of free-booting trade and gunboat diplomacy interpreted as stand-alone triumph against all the odds.

That's what you're argung with, not poetry

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 05:23:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Only Literature graduates think literature defines a culture.

Yes, but perhaps the culture helped to define the writers and their choice of destination...

O'Toole:

Perhaps, being obviously small, Ireland could find in the expansiveness of the Continent a relief from claustrophobia. And paradoxically, in that release lay the possibility of looking back on Ireland itself, as Joyce did so wonderfully, without rancour but with a good-humoured forgiveness.

What he did in the early years of the 20th century, his country men and women did after EU membership in 1973 - being European gave us relief and release from being too much enclosed in our own company and thus allowed us to get over ourselves.

While part of the English identity was moulded against French, Spanish and German identities, ours was moulded against the English. The EU allowed us to reach out and find ourselves in a much larger and cosmopolitan social setting, so much so that being anti-English is now no longer a necessary part of Irish identity.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 05:31:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Joyce was close to the Jewish community - his great friend, the writer Italo Svevo became one of the models for Leopold Bloom. He taught English to wealthy Greek merchants and attended services in the beautiful Greek Orthodox (now Serbian Orthodox) church of San Nicolò. He feasted on this stew of languages and cultures.

It is, for all sorts of reasons, impossible to imagine the great anatomies of early 20th century London being produced in such a place. But when we think of Dubliners, with its minute etching of the physical and mental topography of the city, we have to remind ourselves that most of its was written, not in our capital, but in a second floor flat in Via San Nicolò.

It was on the third floor of a house in Via Nuova that Joyce rewrote Stephen Hero as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. In a second floor room on Via Donato Bramante, he began work on perhaps the greatest of all Irish artistic achievements, Ulysses.

Joyce is inscribed on this city but it is also inscribed on his Dublin - it was Trieste that gave Joyce the sheer cosmopolitan energy that he infused back into the native city he had left in disgust, making it not the dull provincial nowhere he had fled but, in his re-imagining, a European metropolis.



Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 05:13:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you claiming that Corbyn is a closet Irishman?
Centrism is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 05:56:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Few Irish people have actually read Ulysses, and are not ashamed to admit it. Corbyn to me actually seems quintessential English middle class, without the petty snobberies of the aspiring English middle class or the aspiring upper middle classes. Perhaps that is partly why he is so hated by the aspiring classes. His principled identification with so many lesser, non elite, groups also jars with their aspiration to "rise above" and differentiate themselves from the lower orders. There is no one more hated than he who offers to share wealth and status which they absolutely do not wish to share...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 10:50:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Joyce Museum in Trieste are very proud of the letter they have in which joyce announced to Svevo that hs has completeted "Ulysses o sua madre Greca", which the owner translated as "Ulysses or that fucking book"
' You wont' find this on the interenet (unless they index my post), but telling someone that they have a Greek mother is one of the worst insults in Triestine dialect (a Triestine colleague confirmed this). On the other hand, Ulysses, being Greek, probably did have a Greek mother.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Jun 25th, 2019 at 06:51:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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