To be opposed to the ‘Peace Process’ is not to be opposed to ‘Peace’ – By Jamie Bryson

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In recent days the debate around dual Nationality and dual citizenship has been re-ignited, following revelations that BBC presenter Stephen Nolan has obtained an Irish passport to compliment the British one already held.

This issue goes much wider than dual Nationality, which was freely available prior to the Belfast Agreement.

This poses the key question in relation to the intent- in a contested state- of availing of such.

The Belfast Agreement went much further than reaffirming the right to hold dual nationality, and instead provided for parity between Britishness and Irishness and the right to hold citizenship in relation to both.

The Belfast Agreement was sold to Unionism under the plainly false assumption that Nationalism would prioritise their equality agenda over the constitutional issue and would accept the legitimacy of Northern Ireland, providing that they felt they were able to play a full and meaningful role.

There was the false notion, fed because the agreement meant all things to all people, that dual citizenship would create the environment whereby Nationalists could live happily and play a meaningful role in a settled state.

Of course Nationalism never had any intention of dividing their ‘equality’ agenda, of which the citizenship  strategy is a key part, from the constitutional question.

The rightful rejection of this equality agenda by Unionists is framed as ‘bigoted, sectarian and hard line’.

This is part of Sinn Fein’s strategy to use rights based language to advance political aims and present Unionism as regressive on the International stage.

Unionism’s resistance to the equality agenda is based upon the quite correct realisation that rather than Nationalism’s ever growing list of demands being part of a settlement for a stable Northern Ireland, it is a Trojan horse designed to undermine the legitimacy of the state and feed into the much larger Nationalist political aim of Irish unity.

The equality agenda is the art of dressing up political aims as civil rights.

The majority of people pursuing Irish passports do so in order to assert their rights as Irish citizens living in what they believe is an illegitimate state.

Some Unionists however have obtained Irish passports for cultural reasons because they identify with certain aspects of Irish culture, as is their right. If one holds two passports then this is a de-facto acceptance of the Nationalist position that Northern Ireland is neutral.

The next logical step is that if you accept the citizenship parity between Britishness and Irishness, then so too would you have to accept that the Irish national flag should be held in equivalence with the sovereign Union flag.

Of course to follow it right through to its logical conclusion, if you accept the aforementioned then the only end position is acceptance that- at the very least- Dublin and London should have joint-sovereignty over Northern Ireland.

The issue of citizenship is so crucial in a contested state because it provides those seeking to undermine the state with an avenue to demand parity of esteem for minority political aspirations.

It seeks to place an obligation on the state to recognise Irishness in parity with Britishness.

It is a demand not for parity for people, but rather for political aspirations. At its most basic level it is a demand that the minority aspiration of Irish unity be afforded equal standing with the democratic  wishes of the majority to remain British.

It is not only a back-door way of undermining the principle of consent, but is part of the overall trajectory of the ‘peace process’.

A process by its very definition has a beginning and an end. Therefore to discover the end of the peace ‘process’ it is only logical to look at the primary agreement underpinning it, and what end is envisaged within it.

The Belfast Agreement allows for only one ending, the trajectory leading only one direction, and that is towards a referendum on Irish unity followed by a continuous cycle of referendums every seven years until the Northern Ireland electorate decide they want to join a United Ireland. This is the end game, the end of the process.

To be opposed to the peace process is not to be opposed to peace.

All our political battles must be underpinned by a commitment from all that never again must violence take the place of democracy.

Peace must be an absolute commitment, not a commitment to peace only within the confines of the ‘process’.

Liberal Unionism labours under the false notion that granting dual citizenship rights and embracing Nationalism’s ever broadening ‘equality’ demands will reduce Nationalist hostility to the state and thus politically stabilise Northern Ireland.

This is a fool’s paradise. Northern Ireland is a contested state, the name of which Sinn Fein cannot even utter.

Unionism must be alert to the fact that citizenship and equality are not stand alone rights based issues, but rather the key battle ground in Nationalism’s overall political objective of achieving Irish unity.

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  1. Jamie trying to talk like the 6 Co State is a sacrosanct entity which some kind of benevolent Unionism can preserve forever is a bit like KKK pressing for benevolent and well regulated slaveship rights again for the rich in Alabama.
    His arguments/hopes are irrelevant to the present and the coming situ.
    King Canute had more chance of not getting wet than 6Cos has of remaining in its present Status Quo state.

  2. Jamie,
    Stop conflating the important differences between nation(al) identity and citizenship. The day before partition, all on the island of Ireland were Irish. The following day, the only change was that those who live in the South had broken free of British colonial rule by a foreign Westminster parliament in England.

    When a member of the British nation(s) or Irish nation goes to live in say Germany, after 5 years they became eligible to apply for German citizenship. If they availed of a German citizenship Passport, would that make them part of the German nation? No, it wouldn’t, as nationhood and citizenship are two entirely different things.

    For instance, all immigrants who make the island of Ireland their new home are not members of the Irish nation. Rather, they are welcome and equal members of Irish society be that within the NI colony statelet or elsewhere on the island of Ireland native homeland of the Irish nation.

  3. In some respects Jamie’s candour is endearing. He says things which other unionist politicians would balk at. Jamie is openly opposed to equality (dismissing it as an agenda of Sinn Féin) where more seasoned unionist politicians would be reluctant to be as forthright on this issue because opposition to equality is generally seen to be distasteful, non-PC and in a world where people no longer accept a second class citizenship so readily, the preserve of the ultra-right.

    Unionists have always opposed equality of rights which is of course why the Northern state was instigated, to circumvent democracy by creating an artificial entity with a “permanent” sectarian dominant majority.

    The fact that the design flaw in the Northern State was human demographics themselves has meant much sole searching for some loyalists. People like Jamie who perhaps like to imagine themselves to be essentially fair in their outlook are left which this huge ambiguity when it comes to applying that same principle of equality to the circumstances in the North.

    The hard-to-swallow truth for Jamie and those like him, is that rather than being an agenda driven by a small cohort within Sinn Féin, equality is written into the source code of every fair human being. For Nationalists I believe it is a very simple concept reminiscent of schoolboy football – halftime turnover!

    I have heard the argument before that the Good Friday Agreement was sold to unionists on the basis that some power ceded to Nationalists would assuage their desire for a United Ireland and persuade them to accept the Northern State as being the natural way of things and a fait accompli. I find this argument to have little substance. The vast bulk of unionist voters had a similar experience pre-referendum to their nationalist counterparts. We were told that both Nationalist and Unionist aspirations were equally valid and that either could prevail, therefore Nationalists and Republicans could support the mechanisms prevailing in the state in the knowledge that it would always be for them a transitional arrangement. Perhaps those on the margins of Loyalism were sold a different message but that would have a very limited impact on the referendum outcome as loyalist electoral representation would tend to show. I believe most unionists voted for a shared future.

    I am sure that Jamie understands that those opposed to equality in western style democracies have generally ended up on the losing side of history, normally through the actions of courts or government intervention. The question that Jamie should address is that since he expects northern Nationalists to accept the current system prevailing within the North on the basis of a majority mandate, should that mandate shift in favour of a United Ireland would he respect the institutions of a United Ireland?

  4. The argument for equality in Northern Ireland is not about equality between British and Irish. You can’t compare those because they exist on different levels. That’s like comparing a striker to a footballer. One is a subset of the other. I’m a catholic nationalist. I want to see a united Ireland. I was born in Belfast and that makes me British, just as British as Jamie.
    The problem in Northern Ireland is not that Unionists won’t let Catholics be Irish. It’s that they won’t let us be British. Unionists think that they control what Britishness is and what it contains. Only they can decide what languages are acceptable or what kind of sport or music is British. They think that only they can decide when and where the Union flag is flown or the National Anthem is played. That’s why Unionists were so enraged about the decision to restrict the flying of the flag at Belfast City Hall. Unionists aren’t concerned about designated days, most unionist controlled councils follow that practice. What annoyed Unionists was not the decision itself but rather who made it, non-British people.
    The equality agenda being pursued by Sinn Fein is designed to prove that Unionists are incapable of accepting Catholics as fellow British citizens, not as Jamie seems to think, equal Irish citizens. That’s what he and other unionists are incapable of understanding.
    So Unionists are going to continue to resist equality and to make Sinn Fein’s case for them.

    • Seamus, ‘I was born in Belfast, that makes me British’?

      ‘What annoyed Unionist was not the decision itself but rather who made it, non-British people’!

      What is it to be Seamus? You are Belfast born and therefore claim to be British but the people who made the decision to fly the union flag on the City Hall on designated days and who were presumably also born in Belfast (including Alliance councillors) are non-British!

      Perhaps you mean you were born in Belfast and are therefore eligible to consider yourself as a British subject of Her Majesty the Queen of England?

      I was born in the North and I am not British along with a significant number of others born here although I would be entitled to apply for a U.K. Passport should I choose to do so.

      • Pointis, What annoyed Unionists was that people they believed to be non British took a decision about the flag. Unionists think Britishness, including control over British symbols belongs to them alone. They don’t see their catholic neighbours as equal British citizens. That’s the real Trojan Horse of equality and it’s Unionists own doing.

        • Seamas, yes I would accept part of what you are saying, had it been a Unionist dominated Council and Nationalists had played an insignificant role in the decision then it would not have concerned them.

          Generally I don’t think Unionists consider Catholics born here as being equal to them because of their affinity to Ireland as opposed to Britain and the British Monarchy.

          I think that Unionist/Loyalists believe themselves to be ‘the nation’ of Northern Ireland as they would see it. A good indicator would be people who have an affinity to the Northern Ireland football team. Loyalists are sometimes bewildered as to why Catholics born in the North do not support a soccer team representing an entity which was set up to exclude Catholics from being equal citizens.

          Most Irish Nationalists in area where I live would take great offence to being called British.

          • Pointis. I think we’re singing off the same hymn sheet. There is a dichotomy facing Unionists which they have never managed to resolve. If Northern Ireland is British then everyone in it is. That includes Catholics. So how do Unionists afford Catholics our full and equal British rights but at the same time restrict those rights to prevent us using them to end the Union? That’s the dilemma that faced Carson and Craig and its still the dilemma facing Foster and Dodds.
            I’m Irish. That’s my ethnicity. I speak Irish, I feel Irish I identify with Irishness. I want to be Irish on the island of Ireland. The constitutional arrangement between the UK and Ireland shouldn’t matter. Whether the border runs down the Irish Sea or around the six counties shouldn’t matter. I’m supposed to be able to feel and be as Irish in this UK region as a Scotsman can feel Scottish in his. But of course I don’t because Unionists won’t let me. It’s that refusal which will eventually destroy the state.

  5. Jake Mac Siacais on

    Be careful Jamie the unstable statelet is full of Trojan Horses and as any good cowboy or ‘Apache’ ( as you once styled yourself) knows it’s always a bad idea to spook the horses.
    In the reality of post GFA transitional arrangements your take on constitutional issue is de facto obsolete. Just you keep on spooking the Trojan Horses and it will be obsolete both de facto and de jure all the quicker.
    British irridentist desires unionist majoritarian longing and your unreconstructed ‘croppie lie down’ bonfire anti-culture act as constant irritants to the mix.
    Even without them, however, I imagine you know that demographics ensure only one direction of travel and that the GFA already guarantees the framework and methodology for the journey. Please keep spooking the Trojan Horses.

  6. Jamie has a seige mentality and perhaps rightly so. The political minority on the island is unionism and has been for decades. This was one Irish state, within the UK and the last vote of the that state was in a vast majority to a republican party. But leaving aside history, GFA acknowledges the myriad of conflicts and differences of opinion on matters reaching their centenaries. Republicans compromised deeply to acknowledge time had passed and essentially accept british overrule. They accepted the unionists weren’t going to be bullied into a united Ireland and had legitimate concerns. Jamie’s view however boils down to themuns want and get everything,
    (lumping irish language activists and gay rights into a republican agenda – ‘themuns’), and the GFA was all hunky dory for nationalists. GFA is an amazing achievement, which Jamie seems to think was scrawled on the back of a cigarette packet and not a multinational agreement, essentially a peace treaty which largely ended a conflict as intransigent as the israel-palestine stalemate. The part where he says ‘but rather [parity] for political aspirations’ is correct. Unionism accepts legitimacy of Irish Nationalism and vice versa. The beauty of GFA. His bellyaching about nationalism always seeking the constitutional question is laughable from someone who entire purpose is to defend the constitutional status quo. SF are willing to seek Unity as well as civil rights for other minorities in the state. Any unionists opposed to same sex marriage, ILA, that is their democratic right but to veto majority votes with a mechanism which protects minorities against the minorities themselves is wrong. Also the reaction to RHI from SF’s govt partners was just poor public accountability, nothing to do with Orange n Green – both were getting screwed. I dislike we’re back to intransigence from the two major parties but talk from SF or Poots at MacGill Summer School in Glenties, makes me think they’re showing disdain outwardly for each other, for the media at Stormont, to rally their support for an eventual compromise, to the benefit of all, without much losing of face. In the end that’s as much as an loyalist, republican, unionist or nationalist can hope for right now

  7. on

    Completely agree with Seamas. The loyalists of the six counties are not perceived as being nice people here in England. They are seen as National Front. By the way I am Falls road but have a british passport as it was 10 pound cheaper than an Irish one. I will go back to Irish on my next renewal. A bit like chosing your electricity supplier. I have lived here in London for 40 years now. My kids are English but do visit often. When I visit I am regarded as a tourist. I feel kind of stateless.

  8. The Good Friday Agreement is dead, was NOT supported by the DUP and should be completely disregarded should the DUP wish to return to power.

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