Bernard Shaw got it right when he wrote in "Man
and Superman", "Liberty means responsibility.
That is why most men dread it." The question
facing us in Northern Ireland in 2004 is how can we
responsibly bring about an enduring political solution
that provides liberty and prosperity for all?
a unionist perspective, there have been three possible
solutions. Two have been tried in one shape or form
and have failed; the other has been politely ignored.
as defined by the Belfast Agreement, has been a cosmic
failure. It must be obvious to all but the slowest
learner, or the most avaricious politician, that rather
like Monty Python's Norwegian Blue Parrot, the GFA
has ceased to be! It is an ex-Agreement. The Assembly
at Parliament Building lies embalmed - a mausoleum
to greed and deceit. Some Unionists have long argued
that a process built upon "constructive ambiguity"
was always doomed to failure. No amount of tricks
with political mirrors, media smokescreens, and euphemistic
evasions was ever going to get around the fact that
the foundations of this mutant form of devolution
were intrinsically flawed.
moths to the light, Unionists are drawn to devolution.
The DUP and UUP offer it up as their current preferred
political solution. There is only one slight problem
with this - it has absolutely no chance of ever being
made available to them on terms that would merit its
acceptance! Mr. Blair merely teases Unionists with
the allure of their little toy town Assembly. But
in exchange, they are asked to accept changes which
are solely aimed at destroying the Union through a
de facto, if not de jure, rolling United Ireland.
That is why it is not worth having!
DUP Euro candidate Jim Allister, speaking in the mid-1980's,
said "The plain truth is that if Unionists
come to terms with Dublin rule through the Anglo-Irish
Agreement, then equally, they can come to terms with
the full Irish Unity to which it is inevitably is
leading." Substitute the words "Belfast
Agreement" for "Anglo-Irish
Agreement" and we have an update
on the real and present danger of devolution. It is
a honey-trap for the gullible and greedy. This is
an issue that the DUP has to come to terms with, if
it genuinely wishes to be honest with the unionist
Belfast Agreement also cruelly exposed the ossification
of Ulster Unionism. Inept negotiators, conflicting
strategies, and a chasm between reality and practicality
have resulted in the UUP becoming dramatically weakened
and humiliated at the polls. It hankers after a return
to becoming "the natural party of
government" but time has now passed
it by and chasing devolution at any price has proven
to be a disastrous strategy. Perhaps whoever succeeds
David Trimble as the next Leader may want to reflect
on the folly of chasing chimeras.
is the next preferred option of Unionism. Yet Francis
Bacon may have summed it up when he stated that "Hope
is a good breakfast but a poor supper."
Having stood for election on an integration ticket,
it was my experience that it does not ring a bell
with the Unionist electorate. The primary objection
to Integration at grass-roots level is that people
feel they will have absolutely no say or sanction
over the politicians who are making decisions about
issues affecting their everyday life. Schools can
close, hospitals can be starved of money - and the
electorate can just put up with it. I have come to
view this as fundamentally incompatible with a representative
democracy. It is my view that people must have the
inalienable right to select those that they want as
their political representatives and they must have
the right to kick them out should they get fed up
further problem with Integration is that it avoids
the reality that one cannot integrate with that which
does not want you. Only the most naïve unionist
would accept the Westminster establishment really
wants them. In fact, they really want rid of them!
That is merely an expression of the political world
as it is, rather than as one might wish it to be.
Lord Carson could not force integration, even when
backed up with 100,000 armed men. Does any unionist
believe that a dozen MP's can do the job? David Trimble,
bizarrely, got it right when he said, "To
persuade the London establishment to return to integration
is to try and set the clock back 100 years... it is
not a realistic option... Moreover the (Anglo-Irish)
diktat has underlined how any form of integration
is the potential vehicle for the exercise of dictatorial
powers over Ulster."
failure of mutant devolution and the impossibility
of full UK integration have resulted in the current
default position of Direct Rule. The problem with
Direct Rule is that it is at best a holding position.
It does nothing to resolve ongoing issues and arouses
suspicions and hostilities on all sides. This is exemplified
in the delinquent decision by Minister Jane Kennedy
to destroy academic selection, despite the fact that
the majority of parents consulted on this issue expressed
a desire to retain academic selection. Thus tyranny
is exercised in the name of democracy. How can anyone
be content with this monstrous "default"
rule? Sticking with Direct Rule suggests a very low
form of self-worth as a people. Aren't we worth just
a little bit more?
devolution dead in the water, integration a failed
illusion, and Direct Rule a patronising insult, where
to for thinking democrats? I posit the notion that
it is high time that we thought the unthinkable. Have
we the common ability to think post-unionist, post-nationalist?
Or do we stay locked up in mutually incompatible boxes
forever, wondering why it is we never make real progress?
Wilson said that "Liberty has never
come from the government. Liberty has always come
from the subjects of the government. The history of
government is a history of resistance. The history
of liberty is the history of the limitation of government,
not the increase of it."
this concept be grasped and applied to our political
context? If so, what are we prepared to give up in
order to obtain lasting liberty? Unionists certainly
wouldn't want to surrender to Reunion, but would they
consider sacrificing their current Union for a genuine
settlement? Nationalists certainly wouldn't want to
surrender to perpetual Union, but would they consider
sacrificing Reunion in the future for a genuine settlement
today? Could the consideration of such mutually assured
radicalism, in the form of a Negotiated Independence,
actually bring about a worthy solution? Or do we continue
with this failed formula of creeping gradualism, ongoing
terrorist violence on all sides, and political dysfunctionalism?
What benefits could Independence yield? Well, according
to the former First Minister, clarity would be amongst
the first. As he once put it, in his particular style,
"To simple minds it can seem that
our part of the United Kingdom is an improper intrusion
into Ireland and that we are merely the agents of
British imperialism. A move towards independence would
clarify that position."
further added that by being free from London and Dublin
interference would create a problem for the IRA as
"It would thus deprive the IRA of
its emotional power house, namely the desire to drive
out the British 'army of occupation' when the 'occupation
forces' are gone and replaced solely by native Ulstermen."
position back in 1988 was clear - Independence was
the best way forward. Eight years later he had assumed
leadership of the UUP and pivoted away from Independence
and back to devolution. Was this an opportunity lost?
Independence is mentioned, Unionists' hearts tend
to flutter. I fail to see why! All that is being proposed
is that men and women of goodwill consider sitting
down and exploring how this province could be transformed
into a prosperous, stable, self-governing entity.
Issues that would require careful examination would
include how could international goodwill be exploited
to support a radical low tax/high value economic model
for Northern Ireland? Could we make Northern Ireland
a magnet for international investment? Would Britain,
the EU, and the US offer us the support needed? Is
it imaginable that the men and women of Northern Ireland
could set aside ancient enmity in exchange for future
prosperity within a region they truly shared?
Rather than dreading our liberty, as George Bernard
Shaw warned, should we not be embracing it? A day
must come when Northern Ireland steps away from the
shadows of the past. That day will be Independence
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