Methodist minister Harold Good urges Protestants to join actor James Nesbitt in looking at future of NI through a new lens

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I greatly appreciate his recognition of the positive that already exists and totally endorse all that he has said about the urgent need for leadership at every level of political and civic society if we are not to lose that which has already been achieved. As others have rightly pointed out, there are realities regarding the future political landscape of the Island of Ireland that we can no longer ignore – and  yes, it is also my experience that more and more people from within the U/u unionist part of our community are beginning to share this conversation, much more in private than in public.  Understandably, this is where it must begin but sooner rather than later this conversation needs to be brought out into the open and shared with people from across our community, unionist and nationalist, Catholic and Protestant.

Only when we can share such a conversation as a people who have confidence in ourselves and our own positions and traditions, as well as an understanding of each others, can we begin to explore political options without prejudice, fear or pre-conception. This is a big ‘ask’ but not beyond us, and as Nesbitt reminds us particularly important as we approach the anniversaries of 1920 and 1921.

The alternative is to drift on, ignoring the realities which inevitably will determine our future.

Most likely in ways which would cause yet more division with potentially dangerous consequences. So why not now begin to share in the honest, open and constructive conversation of which Jimmy Nesbitt speaks? Let us move beyond the flawed assumption that to discuss that which is difficult and initially contrary to my personal and familial history is an unthinkable betrayal of my tradition!  Rather, let us see it as an opportunity to explore as yet untried and un-tested options, at least one of which would inevitably be to the benefit of all the peoples of this entire island, whatever the future ‘make and shape’ of this our shared island home.  From an entirely personal point of view, I would hope and pray that future for my children and grandchildren to be determined by design rather than by default!  I would like to think that I could yet be a part of that conversation – but as a realist as well as a dreamer, I am conscious that time may not be on my side!

But I WILL dream on!

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  1. Gerry Mander on

    What would a new ‘Union of Ireland’ look like, I wonder;

    – Would it still have the current Irish tricolour flag? How about the national anthem? Would the national seal of Ireland be changed, to perhaps the Maid of Erin harp?

    – Would we still have a devolved Stormont under Dublin rule; and would it be still be a mandatory power-sharing one or a majoritarian one?

    – Would (formerly) Norn Iron be part of a singular Irish state in overall governance; certainly the 70 or so northern representatives to the Dublin parliament in such a scenario would change the overall balance of seats, but to what degree?

    – Would Ireland be prepared to re-join the Commonwealth as an olive branch to northern Protestants?

    – Would the political structures of Ireland be reformed to accommodate and reflect the new dispensation? Change or amend the name of the legislature (Irish National Assembly?) and lower house (Chamber of Deputies?)…? Directly-elected Senate with the power to potentially veto legislation passed in the lower house if so voted upon, perhaps?

    – What about harmonisation of laws between the two former jurisdictions, how would that work?

    – If loyalism and hardline unionism refuses to play ball, what then? Loyalists still have their arsenal, unlike the ‘Ra.

    So let’s have that conversation in a respectful and civil manner, but any border poll in the next few years would undoubtedly return a result for NI to remain within the UK, and that’s the elephant in the room in any such discourse…

  2. Seamus Lynch on

    You truly believe the ra gave up their entire arsenal? The IRA and loyalist paramilitaries were not in the same league. I dont think either side would muster the same level of support and you would have to question loyalist capability without the assistance of British intelligence.

  3. Assuming that Ireland is unified at some point in the future there will have to be some small changes. As its unification, not annexation, I don’t think anyone would mind if we changed the national anthem? No one really likes the Soldiers Song, and Irelands call would drop the ball. How about compromising with a little ditty from Daniel O’Donnell? Something about how his Mamy is like Ireland and how he loves his Mamy & Ireland. Something inoffensive.

    Of course we’d also need to change the flag. You know, we’re partial to a bit of flag waving. We’d have to have a referendum on it. You all know who would win. Flaggy McFleg Fleg would win. You know we’d all vote for that, right?

    At some point in the Dail the DUPers will hold the balance of power. Almost inevitable. Not right away, but at some point. That’s gone so well in Westminster, and they’re trying to be ‘helpful’ there. They’d probably like a few small changes. Perhaps a First Taoiseach, and of course a Deputy First Taoiseach. Just to make them feel at home. Maybe they’ll even be offered a Ministerial position. Not an important one like Finance or Foreign Affairs. Perhaps an unimportant one, like Culture. Reaching out the hand of friendship. You just know the DUPers will make Gregory Campbell Minister for Culture? You knew that? Right?

    Of course we now have representatives from Ballymena talking to representatives from Cork. Think of the translation costs alone! We’ll also need a touch of ‘Ulster Scots’ thrown in. Perhaps a PetitionyOfConceryHey to protect minorities, which has worked wonders in the North.

    However, we’d all be happy with a New Irish public holiday, 12th July, of course!

    As the First Taoiseach, and Deputy First Taoiseach salute FlaggyMcFlegFleg in the Dail while singing to a Daniel O’Donnell toon about his Mamy & Ireland, with Minister Campbell spreading culture throughout the 32 counties do you think everyone might wonder if this is how they imagined it?

    • Gerry Mander on

      I don’t know what substances (legal or otherwise) you’re on, but can I have some!?

      In all seriousness, a unified Ireland should go back to some of the ideas originally stipulated in the Free State Constitution before Dev had it trashed wholesale… things like the chief executive (whatever the title would be in a newly unified Ireland) having more limited powers and constrained more tightly to collective cabinet responsibility than their current counterpart; a directly-elected Senate; membership of the Commonwealth… to name but three.

      Heck, if you want to be really radical, I’d give the President some executive powers they don’t have currently; like appointing foreign and defence ministers of their choosing, representing Ireland abroad, being able to submit legislative proposals to the legislature, being able to veto legislation from said legislature… if you’re going to directly elect your President, you might as well make it count, and you might as well use those 92 rooms in the Aras for something useful.

      Just my own humble opinions, of course…

      • Gerry Mander on

        Make the Aras in effect the Presidential administration building, buy back Deerfield off the Yanks and make that the official Presidential residence.

        You’re welcome Ireland.

  4. Conversations are all well and good, but some kind of ‘New Ireland’, ‘union of Ireland’, or ‘United Ireland’ (they are all the same thing whatever Mr. Nesbitt may say) is the unspoken assumption in every aspect of this particular conversation.

    Does anyone seriously think that a ‘New Union of the British and Irish Isles’ is up for discussion; does anyone really think that a ‘United Ireland in a United Kingdom’ is up for discussion, I suspect not; in which case, the ‘conversation’ is a fait accompli. Come to think of it does anyone think that the current Republic of Ireland is going to dismantle their current structures of government and reorganise in a way which will satisfy northern Unionists or Eire Nua?

    And any reluctance then, which there may be about engaging in such a conversation has nothing to do with an “unthinkable betrayal of my (Unionist) tradition”, it has more to do with being able to spot the inevitable end from a few hundreds yards away.

    • Gerry Mander on

      “Does anyone seriously think that a ‘New Union of the British and Irish Isles’ is up for discussion; does anyone really think that a ‘United Ireland in a United Kingdom’ is up for discussion”

      They already tried that for 122 years… if Home Rule had been implemented immediately in 1914, Ireland today would still be part of the Union. The most you’ll get in future is Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth in a new UI to appease Northern Irish Protestants.

      Look, Jimmy Nesbitt is a genuinely nice guy by all accounts, and at least he hails from the so-called PUL community so understands it (unlike the vast majority of intelligentsia in academia and media), but at the end of the day, he’s also a member of the latte-drinking London metropolitan liberal clique, and that ultimately effects his views, which of the above (and like most well-meaning liberal views), are genuine and earnest but ultimately naive.

      I don’t fear a reunited Irish state if it happens (and I do think it will at some point), I often think we maybe should have done a deal to be part of one a century ago when we really could have made a difference (and for the record; I’m both a ‘Protestant’ and a conservative), but frankly, Ireland has changed beyond all recognition to what it was even 10 or 15 years ago, and it’s not a state I’d choose to be part of in it’s current form… it’s bad enough that GB is fast becoming a fundamentalist secular theocracy, the thought of joining another one certainly doesn’t float my proverbial boat, it has to be said.

      Additionally, I find it somewhat amusing that for decades, unionists complained that ‘the South’ was a conservative Catholic state… now many unionists lament that it’s NOT one anymore!!! Frankly, I’d happily live in a conservative Irish Catholic state over what it is now, but that ship has sailed, and what it is now isn’t particularly appealing, at least not to me.

      Whatever happens, I do truly believe that Northern Irish Protestants would be – indeed, would have been – treated with more respect and dignity in a UI than they have gotten from perfidious Albion the last few decades… hell, even Carson realised in the end how he and the cause of unionism had been merely used for political ends by the Tories;

      “What a fool I was. I was only a puppet, and so was Ulster, and so was Ireland, in the political game that was to get the Conservative Party into power.”

      The more things change, the more they stay the same… as the DUP will inevitably discover to their (and all of our) cost sooner or later.

      Whether it be the United Kingdom or a new “Union of Ireland”, northern Protestants need to be smart and self-aware so as not to be played like a fiddle… history indicates they won’t be, but I live in hope.

      • “Whether it be the United Kingdom or a new “Union of Ireland”, northern Protestants need to be smart and self-aware so as not to be played like a fiddle…”

        I’m not sure that is possible. All indications are that some kind of ‘New Ireland’ is the fashionable cause now and beyond a vote in a Border Poll I don’t expect northern Protestants (I am one also) will have much of a say.

        If anything, on paper at least, the Eire Nua type proposals for a federal Ireland based on the provinces and outside of the EU would be more acceptable to me, but that won’t happen either, which is why I raised the questions about a broader British/Irish Isles Union and the dissolution of the current RoI. Although I don’t quite agree that the broader Union has already been tried–there’s always potential for variations on a theme, with an emphasis on the so-called ‘Celtic’ nations. But none of this, of course, is going to happen; it’s all about Northern Ireland changing, nothing else; northern Unionists will continue to be ‘played’ and assimilation into an Irish ‘Republic’ (itself already subsumed within the EU) is inevitable, all of which renders the conversation pointless and (as you seemed to suggest), naive.

        As for me, I shall accept a United Ireland when it comes, and, like you, have no doubt that I shall be well received, but I’ll always be a British/Irish unionist because I believe that some version of that union best reflects the families of these isles.

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