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Manufactured outrage

by Frank Schnittger Fri Sep 17th, 2021 at 06:16:18 PM EST

The  President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, raised a storm of manufactured outrage yesterday when he decided not to attend a church ceremony in Armagh with Queen Elizabeth II to mark the centenary of partition and the creation of Northern Ireland. Chief among the outraged was DUP leader, Geoffrey Donaldson, who has recently pulled his party out of all north-south ministerial meetings as required by strand 2 of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, in protest at the Northern Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement.

It is difficult to know whether Donaldson would have been even more outraged if the President had decided to attend the event, as he typically decries southern "interference" in northern affairs. However, his claim the the President's decision is a snub to Queen Elizabeth is just another attempt by him to draw attention away from the DUP's complicity in Brexit and the Protocol. In reality unionists are desperate to normalise the creation and status quo of Northern Ireland and extremely sensitive to any suggestion it doesn't have universal support.

My thought's on the matter have been published by The Irish Times (see below).

A chara, - President Michael D Higgins is to be congratulated for deciding not to attend the church service with Queen Elizabeth marking the island's partition and the Northern Ireland centenary. One does not have to be a staunch republican to see the partition of the island as an historic injustice imposed on Ireland against the wishes of the vast majority of the population on the island at that time.

In doing so, the British Empire engaged in its classic strategy of "divide and conquer", and impoverished both parts of Ireland politically, economically and socially for much of the past century. Partition was only accepted by the pro-Treaty side in our Civil War under threat of "terrible and immediate war" by the British and has been the source of division and unrest ever since.

It would be humiliating for our President to give his stamp of approval to the creation of that division, especially now, as under the terms of the Belfast Agreement, it may be reviewed in due course. It is also hypocritical for the Christian churches to celebrate what was essentially a sectarian split between an artificially created Protestant majority in the North, and a Catholic Church-dominated republic in the South.

The churches put their institutional and political interests ahead of their Christian duty to unite all the people of Ireland and should not be proud of that fact. Partition was the result of the actions of "perfidious Albion" and a failure of leadership on this island by the leaders of all communities, and far from celebrating it, we should be working to end it.

Queen Elizabeth is welcome to visit Ireland at any time, but that does not mean that our President should endorse the purpose of her visit on this occasion. - Is mise,

The contrary view also expressed by some southern politicians is that Ireland expressly recognised the creation of Northern Ireland in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and that, whatever the merits and circumstances of its creation, we have do deal with the current reality that Northern Ireland enjoys the support of a majority of its population and will remain in existence for as long as it does so. It follows that all attempts to promote mutual respect and understanding in the meantime should be encouraged.

That is an arguable position and the President probably would have escaped much criticism in the south had he chosen to take that view. In fact he has been prominent in attending events in the North and engaging in all sorts of attempts at reconciliation within Northern Ireland, as have government ministers generally. However there is a particular sensitivity about taking part in a celebration of the specific act of partition (which provoked a civil war in the south) and it is normal for Presidents to avoid entanglement with contentious political issues.

The Presidency is a largely ceremonial office and the President is elected to represent all the people of Ireland. There is no way he could have pleased everyone on this occasion. If anything, Geoffrey Donaldson's accusation that his decision not to attend is "political" justified the decision. The President is not to be used as a pawn in any dispute, and attending the event would have been just as "political" as not doing so.

It would also be wrong to whitewash the role of the Churches in all of this. They may have presented the ceremony as an opportunity to encourage reconciliation and hope, but their role in partition was anything but innocent and it suited their agenda's to have two states on the island entirely in thrall to their respective religious majorities. An Ireland without partition would have had to have been an entirely secular state giving no "special position" to any one religious denomination and in which no set of religious leaders would have been entirely in control - as happened both north and south.

Perhaps current religious leaders should reflect on this as they rapidly lose influence in both parts of Ireland, and as the real work of reconciliation takes place largely without them. Those who fostered sectarianism won't get a free pass for their past misdeeds, however much they may claim to be only interested in reconciliation now. They are simply losing relevance, and the President's decision not to attend their event no more than reflects this.

For a more detailed discussion of the political and historical issues around the commemoration, see here.

One would hardly expect the Queen to attend a celebration of the Chinese take-over of Hong Kong, so why expect President Higgins to attend a celebration of continued British rule in Northern Ireland?

His absence will generate far more publicity for the event than his presence ever would, and perhaps it will also demonstrate to the DUP that failing to operate the structures of the Good Friday Agreement has consequences...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Sep 17th, 2021 at 08:02:25 PM EST
This whole episode, which has resulted in no end of column inches in the Irish press, is the classic case of a storm in a teacup: Who ultimately cares all that much whether the largely ceremonial Irish President attends some church service organised to commemorate Irish Partition. As one letter writer pointed out, it also commemorates a partition of the imperial British Isles, as 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland left the united Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at the same time as Northern Ireland was created.

But something still bothers me about this episode, and it is how the churches have been given a free pass in this affair, as if their organising of an ecumenical service was entirely innocent. I have therefore drafted another letter to the editor on the topic, with little hope of it being published: It reads as follows:

Most people probably feel it is past time for the "storm in a teacup" which resulted from President Michael D. Higgins' decision to decline an invitation to an Ecumenical service in Armagh on the theme of the partition of Ireland and the creation of Northern Ireland is put to bed. The decision was made and is unlikely to be changed at this time.

But somehow the media have given the Churches a free pass on their organisation of the service. The protestant denominations will have been well aware that any commemoration or celebration of Partition would have been problematic for the President of Ireland.

Some eyebrows have been raised at the involvement of the Catholic Primate of all Ireland in this affair. Why did he agree to this particular theme for the service against the opposition of the nationalist parties in Northern Ireland?

It need hardly be said that the Catholic Church was the primary beneficiary of Partition in the south, as it enabled it to exercise almost untrammelled control over the body politic until the 1980's and allows it to control much of Irish education and hospital care to this day.

It is difficult to see how a united Ireland, created in 1921 on the lines of a secular republican tradition which included Catholics, Protestants, Dissenters and the odd socialist and atheist would have allowed any one church to achieve such dominance.

Similarly, in the North, partition enabled the protestant churches and allied organisations such as the Orange order to achieve almost unchallenged hegemony over the state until the civil rights movement and later, the Troubles, upset the apple cart.

The Churches, therefore, have much to atone for the sins of the past, and might well reflect on their role in partition. President Higgins, on the other hand, may prefer to concentrate his reconciliation efforts in secular settings.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 20th, 2021 at 01:12:04 PM EST
Huge backing for President Michael D Higgins
A new Irish Thinks/Irish Mail on Sunday poll published yesterday revealed that 81 percent of respondents supported the decision by President Higgins not to go.

Just 13 per cent of respondents said he should have accepted the invitation, with five percent of respondents saying the 'don't know'.

The poll also revealed that President Higgins is currently the most popular public figure in Ireland with a satisfaction rating of 7.3.

The president has faced criticism from unionists for declining to join the service, which is expected to be attended by Queen Elizabeth along with political leaders.

The event is Titled 'Service of Reflection and Hope, to mark the Centenary of the partition of Ireland and the formation of Northern Ireland'.

President Higgins said the title of the service, which will take place in Armagh's Church of Ireland cathedral, "isn't a neutral statement politically".

The president has defended his decision not to attend.

He came under fire from unionist last week with DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson asking whether the decision was politically motivated as a consequence of advice from the Dublin government.

It has denied that it influenced the president's move.

President Higgins later challenged the DUP criticism and SDLP MP Claire Hanna yesterday accused some unionist politicians of exploiting the public spat, saying he has "walked the walk" on reconciliation and north-south matters.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 20th, 2021 at 04:53:12 PM EST
Has anyone ever invited the Queen and PM to an American Fourth of July Celebration?
by StillInTheWilderness on Wed Sep 22nd, 2021 at 02:33:08 PM EST
UK trade deal cannot be entertained until Northern Ireland row resolved, says top US Democrat
A UK proposal to join a North American trade pact cannot be entertained until the EU-UK dispute over the Northern Ireland Brexit agreement is resolved, a top US Democrat has said.

Congressman Richard Neal, the chairman of an influential US congressional committee that approves the country's trade agreements, said the row over the Northern Ireland Protocol must be resolved, offering no threat to the Belfast Agreement, before the UK government's proposal to join the trade pact between the US, Mexico and Canada could be considered.

The British government this week proposed joining the USMCA, the trade deal signed by former president Donald Trump with Mexico and Canada last year following the renegotiation of the Nafta trade deal, after hopes for a bilateral trade agreement between the US and the UK receded.

"The point here is not so much the trade agreement , because I think that most of us believe that a trade agreement of some sort with the UK would be desirable, but I think until the issue of the Protocol and Brexit are resolved, offering no threat to the success of the Good Friday Agreement, I don't see how they can be entertained," Mr Neal told The Irish Times.

He was speaking after meeting UK prime minister Boris Johnson on his visit to Washington.

The Democrat was "a bit surprised" that the UK "might be interested in joining a hemispheric trade agreement rather than a bilateral " and said that it marks a "change in strategy" by the British. The proposal presented "a bit of a new wrinkle," he said.

Mr Neal, who negotiated the USMCA, said that the British proposal was "very similar" to the bilateral trade proposal "because the major trading partner in it would be the United States. "

The matter was raised by the British during a visit by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to London last week.

Mr Neal said that Mr Johnson did not raise the UK proposal in their meeting.

During their meeting, Mr Neal said that the British prime minister "seemed to blame the European Union for the impasse over the Protocol."

He said that Ms Pelosi told Mr Johnson that Mr Neal had responsibility for trade issues in Congress and that he told the prime minister "that if there was any threat to the Good Friday Agreement - any jeopardy - there can be no trade agreement."

Mr Neal said he spoke with Mr Johnson about the success of the agreement and "reminded the prime minister about the arduous path that this process took" and how two generations of children had grown up on the island of Ireland "without knowing first hand of the Troubles."

"I said that I thought that we needed a firm posture on making sure that there was no return to a hard border and he was emphatic there would be under no circumstances a return to a hard border," he said.

Mr Neal said he was delighted President Biden voiced support for the Northern Ireland Protocol and the Belfast Agreement when he met Mr Johnson at the White House on Tuesday.

Lord Frost had better think long and hard before invoking Article 16 of the Protocol. Not only might this result in a trade war with the EU, but the UK can kiss goodbye to any preferential treatment by the US for so long as Biden/Democrats are in power.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Sep 22nd, 2021 at 09:55:35 PM EST
Taoiseach says suggestion Biden does not understand Northern Ireland is `wrong'
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said anyone who suggests that US president Joe Biden does not understand Northern Ireland is "wrong".

Mr Biden has warned British prime minister Boris Johnson that that the Belfast Agreement must not be put at risk by the difficulties in reaching agreement on post-Brexit trade rules between the UK and EU.

He said he feels "very strongly" about the issue and added: "We spent an enormous amount of time and effort in the United States.... and I would not like to see - nor would many of my Republican colleagues - a change in the Irish accord."

British environment secretary George Eustice later claimed that Mr Biden does not "fully appreciate" the details of the dispute over the Northern Ireland protocol.

He told Sky News it is "very complicated" and "I'm not sure he does fully appreciate all of that".

Mr Eustice also suggested that Mr Biden is "just reading the headlines, reading what the EU is saying, reading what Ireland might be saying, which is that they would like the Northern Ireland Protocol to work in the way the EU envisage."

Mr Martin, who is in New York for United Nations meetings, was asked about Mr Biden's meeting with Mr Johnson and the claim that the US president does not understand the Northern Ireland protocol.

The Taoiseach said: "anybody who suggests that President Biden doesn't get Northern Ireland or understand it is wrong.

"He understands it very well".

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Sep 22nd, 2021 at 10:18:38 PM EST
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has warned speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi that "the Northern Ireland Protocol is the altar upon which the Belfast Agreement is being sacrificed".

The DUP leader published the letter as Boris Johnson prepared to discuss a trade deal US President Joe Biden at the White House last night.

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Wed Sep 22nd, 2021 at 10:40:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And of course Geoffrey Donaldson, who resigned from the UUP in protest against the Belfast Agreement, is now to be accepted as the leading authority on it? Indeed wasn't the DUP's enthusiasm for Brexit largely driven by the hope it would undermine the Belfast Agreement and erect a hard border within Ireland?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Sep 22nd, 2021 at 11:53:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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