Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams: what if?


It’s funny how the unthinkable can, when you’re not looking, turn into the thinkable. Ten, fifteen years back, it would have been unthinkable that Martin McGuinness would have found ways to work with Ian Paisley, and vice versa. Chalk and cheese, oil and water, the immovable meets the unstoppable. But they did. And those who have studied demographic trends tell us it’s far from impossible that, after the election in a little over a year from now, Sinn Féin could emerge as the biggest party at Stormont. That would mean Martin McGuinness would be First Minister.  Hold that thought for  a while.

In the south, it seemed even more unthinkable ten or fifteen years ago that Sinn Féin would not just gain a foothold in the Dail but that it would be a party supported by tens of thousands of people. If you’d told someone back in, say, 2005, that you thought Sinn Féin could become the most popular party in the south, you’d have been laughed off-stage. And if you’d said that you could see Gerry Adams as a possible Taoiseach, you’d have had the men in white coats called for. But look at how things are today. Sinn Féin is, if the most recent polls are any guide, the most popular party in the twenty-six counties. And more and more commentators have been using the words “Taoiseach” and “Gerry Adams” in the same sentence. Hold that thought for a moment.

Supposing – just supposing – both those possibilities came to pass.That you had Martin McGuinness as First Minister in the north and Gerry Adams as Taoiseach in the south. What would be the reaction of unionism?  Would they accept that there were grounds for calling a border referendum? Or would unionist politicians find a way of wriggling free of such a potentially calamitous event?

And what about unionist/loyalist paramilitary groups, which have been making their existence patently obvious and making the inability of the PSNI to do anything about that existence – inability or unwillingness, take your pick – how would they respond? Would they accept the democratic wishes of the people of  Ireland? Or with their minds fresh from the commemoration of the signing of the Covenant, would they go back to their old modus operandi and start at best threatening to kill Catholics or at worst killing them?

With the horrors of the past forty years still fresh in the minds of many, the very thought of such a situation is indeed appalling. Maybe it’s time unionist politicians were asked what their stance would be in the event of such an outcome.

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21 Responses to Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams: what if?

  1. John Patton February 18, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    Go dtiocfaidh an lá gan mhoill

  2. Iolar February 18, 2015 at 11:52 am #

    The sound of silence

    The stance of political unionism may be detected by the sound of silence. Such a perspective was on display during BBC Spotlight (17.2.15). It shed a bright light on the myth of a dignified 6 minute march in Ardoyne.

    Perhaps we could learn lessons from our Scottish and Welsh neighbours about equality and diversity? Conflicting and competing perspectives about Scottish Independence were discussed on the basis of respect and acceptance of political complexities on the issue. There was an absence of violent protests. There was no need for a Parades Commission. No one was injured. No threats were issued. Property was respected. Churches were not used as latrines. Election material was not burned on bonfires. Children with threatening and offensive slogans on their foreheads did not feature in the proceedings. Kerbstones were not painted. Tyres were not burned illegally. It was not necessary to spend millions of pounds policing protests. Gaeilge na hAlban and Cymraeg are forms of communication. Signs in Gaeilge na hAlban and in Cymraeg represent rich and vibrant cultures. They are not viewed with suspicion or as threats. Courses leading to academic awards in all three languages continue to thrive and flourish. Pan Celtic festivals help develop and promote tourism.

    There is a lack of eloquence in the silent stance of political unionism on these issues, however, “silence like a cancer grows.”

  3. ANOTHER JUDE February 18, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    I don`t think Unionist politicians would accept Martin McGuinness as First Minister, they are quite happy to go through the motions of power sharing whilst they are able to gain the perks, ministerial cars, prestige, money etc, all the while refusing to even acknowledge his presence in what they still see as `their` seat of government. Once he is in line for the official top post they will manouevre their way out of it, resort to a form of gerrymandering to stop him. Nesbit and Robinson will suddenly forget all the harsh words exchanged with Alister and they will unite behind a common objective, to Stop Sinn Féin/Save Ulster/Says No type scenario.The exact wording to be worked out at a later date, probably in the Orange Order`s HQ, alongside their buddies in the UDA/UVF.

  4. Perkin Warbeck February 18, 2015 at 1:32 pm #

    The Island of Irony was not named thus for no reason.

    This was the 40 W tungsten incandescent light bulb moment which illuminated one’s reading of today’s blog, Esteeemed Blogmeister. And set about the usual sort of Wattaboutery in Perkie’s inner blogoak monolithic mind (sic).

    Iceland and Greenland too were named for ironic purposes, according to an old Scandinavian myth or was it saga.

    Seemingly, to discourage pesky foreigners from lingering too long in the former and to encourage them to give it a miss and move on over to the latter, far icier island altogether.

    In a quare class of a way, the northern tip of the Island of Irony could be classified as Iceland (containing as it does all those Harris-built igloos, the cold RC though not RUC houses sans central heating) while the southern middle-aged spread is normally referred to as (gulp) Greenland.

    Whatever about Norneverland (with which Perkie would obviously only be on Noddy terms although, in fairness, going forward he does keep his Big Ears open to the latest developments, oops, stagnations there in the forlorn hope that ‘Stagnation Once Again’ will one day replace ‘Ireland’s Caul’ as the National Antrim) the flag of Greenland South features 40 Shades of Irony. Or is it, 50 Shades.

    For, the more the papers of record and the papers of erase alike put down the Shinners the higher the party rises in popularity.

    Greenland South it was,under the civilised sponsorship of Conor Cruise O’Goebbels, which introduced Section 31 with the intention of (1) shortening the Dirty War; and (b) lengthening the isolation of the Shinners.

    Which makes Section 31 a candidate, possibly, for the Gag of the Century.

    It is said that the literary-minded CC O’Goebbels, whose reading even extended unto the litter page of the now extinct Irish Press, was prompted to introduce his Vivisection 31 after reading Fahrenheit 451.The insider’s joke on the part of CC O’G’s inner numerologist was: 3 (45) 1.

    The arsonists amongst us will,of course, recognise that 451 F is the temperature at which paper,both of record and erase, burns. Even the Erse-poetry writing arsonists.

    Ray Bradbury’s novel, naturally, was duly Section 31’d in its country of origin:the US of A.

    Ray Bradbury, btw, is not to be confused with the novelist from Norn Irony, Roy Bradford. The latter was tutored in TCD by CC O’G in the finer points of pronunciation in the Q.’s English and also, the unique unicorniness of Unionism.

    It was,forsooth, during the benign stewardship of CCO’Gubu that RTE handed over its camera,mike and moolah, hook, line and suil eile, to the highly intelligent former under cover activitist of British Army Intelligence, Roy G. Biv,oops, Bradford to make a documentary on the Island of Irony. With the nod that he emphasise the Rainbow nature of the island and the wink that the green was just a minor tint.

    (Section 31 still has a way of putting Perkie’s unpolished prose and pose, through the ‘oops. Its malady, as it were, lingers on).

    If Perkie’s inner Senior Citizen, the momentous Mr. Memory, is not up to his usual tricks ,then the final scene of that unforgettable documentary featured Roy B. vrooming off in his
    vrery voluminous vehicle around the next bend or bends in the road. to Royal Down and thumbs up approval.

    Thus, was RTE able to combine both gas-guzzling and G.A. muzzling at the one and identical time. Old habits die hard, as the ageless, die-hard and amply-upholstered Abbot of Ampleford once sagely opined.

    The Island of Irony always cultivated its Hierarchy of Victors on both sides of the Black PIg’s Dyke.

    Speaking of Lords of the Language (the Second Official one) in The Unionist Times this very day Miriam (for it is she !) was pulling up her tu tu TUTu of tolerance and wagging in her waggish way her bu bu butiful booty at the – iontas Uniionist na n-iontas ! – the Shinners.

    This Miriam is not to be mistaken for another Miriam (of which there is rather a myriad at the mo ) in the Free Southern Stateen media. Though the confusion is (pluperfectlly) understandable, humming as both do off the same Aunty Shinner hum sheet. The hum is explained by the somewhat over-familiarity of the words.

    Lady Miriam, Lord of the Language was giving a shapely leg up (metaphorically squeaking) to the Fahrenheit Gael TD, one Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ McFadden of Longford. So good they named her twice: see under Long for Fad.

    The leg up was on the the TD’s hobby horse which seemingly is the sound of leprechaun being hi-jacked by the Shinners in Sinister House. The linguist from Longford whose mana/motto is ‘Is mise Gabby’ seemingly wishes it to be known that she too has, erm, ‘The Gift of the Gab’ in the First Official and wishes that message to, erm, stick. Which it will, it wlll, in the Fifteen Minutes of fine fame allotted to it.

    This long ignored and suddenly maddened Gabby McFadden, is in no way to be confused with Gabby Hayes, late of Hollywood which is long way from Longford.

    Whereas the newly gladdened (with her quarter of an hour quota/ceathru uair a chloig) Gabby McFadden rides only one hobby horse (whether named Sefton or Shergar, has yet to be clarified/ soilierithe) and it a wooden one the great Gabby Hayses was known to ride no less than three quadrupeds during his stellar celluloid career on the silver screen.

    L to R: Eddie, Calico and Blossom.

    But they were all of the flesh and b. variety, as that Gabby did not ride them for a hobby.They were all , in face, his workhorses.

    Perkie’s inner fillum buff is not hazy on that particiular point.

    • Jude Collins February 18, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

      Ah, Gabby Hayes. Ah, Memory….

  5. Jim Neeson February 18, 2015 at 3:45 pm #

    Everything is possible some less probable
    Sinn Fein will do well in future elections in spite of the hate campaigns
    Our day is coming faster than most people think

  6. Ryan February 18, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    Well Jude, I remember DUP’s Arlene Foster being asked that exact question on the Nolan TV show last year, she was asked by Nolan if the public voted for a United Ireland would she accept that and she replied “Yes, of course, I’m a democrat”. Something tells me the vast majority within the DUP and Unionism/Loyalism in general wont be taking that stance.

    Regardless of what Unionism thinks of a United Ireland, if the majority vote for it then both the British and Irish Governments are legally obliged to implement that. There will be extremists within Unionism/Loyalism that will resort to threats of murder and chaos in a foolish effort to stop it and even go as far as to resort to the sectarian murder of Catholics but it goes without saying that terrorists and murderers should not get in the way of democracy and the wishes of the people of Ireland as they have so often did in the distant and more recent past.

    As a proud Catholic and Irish Republican myself, would I be swayed from voting for a United Ireland by threats from Loyalist/Unionist paramilitaries? Not a chance, I’m not a coward and I live in Belfast near interfaces where sectarian murders from loyalist paramilitaries often occurred during the troubles. Of course I don’t want violence, of course I don’t want anyone, catholic or protestant, being murdered or threatened but I absolutely refuse to bow down to threats from the lowest in society and I know the VAST majority of Republicans would agree with me on that.

  7. neill February 18, 2015 at 5:37 pm #

    A bit of a silly article really in fairness.

    Just a quick question were are SF going to get the extra seats to win the right to become First Minister?

    If Sf think they are being treated tough down south now just wait til the election comes because if I was in FG i would have a picture of Gerry Adams with the caption “will Irelands children be safe if this man was Taoiseach” and then i would question his integrity which in fairness a gcse student could easily do

    As for this comment ” with their minds fresh from the commemoration of the signing of the Covenant, would they go back to their old modus operandi and start at best threatening to kill Catholics or at worst killing them?” the irony of a republican making this type of comment is truly amusing.

    • Jude Collins February 18, 2015 at 6:24 pm #

      Well you may be right, neill – I do a lot of silly things. Where will they get the seats? I dunno. Maybe some other posters can add detail. I just raised the possibility, since it was a bogey-man issue that unionist politicians have used as elections neared in the past. Re SF being treated rough down south – you’re probably right. But they’re also probably used to it. And that last comment: (i) If I knew what a republic was I could agree or disagree with you. Can you tell me?;(ii) I was talking about loyalist paramilitaries – and it is true that in 1912 the threat of violence was used to stymie Home Rule; and I think the record indicates that where nationalists/republicans seem to be making political ground, loyalists have killed Catholics. The implication that republicans have done likewise is, indeed, true in some cases; but (I think we’ve had this debate before) violent republicanism has generally tended to kill soldiers, policemen, prison officers, etc. But I’m open to persuasion

    • TheHist February 18, 2015 at 8:12 pm #

      Neill, for Martin McGuinness to become First Minister it isn’t necessary about SF gaining seats (they need to maintain their 29), there is a possibility of DUP loosing seats at the expense of other Unionist parties. Statistics prove DUP support is in decline!

      As things stand the DUP have 9 more assembly seats than SF. In the 2011 assembly elections there was a 3.1% difference between the DUP and SF. 2014 council elections illustrate that SF gained a bigger percentage of first preference votes compared to the DUP (roughly 1%). At the 2014 council elections, the DUP had the biggest percentage decline of 4.1% – other Unionist parties showed an increase. Big question remains – will the DUP maintain their assembly vote / support? or will there be further inroads made by the TUV and UUP allowing SF to become the biggest party in the north in the next assembly elections? Possibilities cannot be ruled out!

      I doubt Unionists / Loyalists would accept such a scenario – the old Unionist paranoia would kick into action. This would invariable be another attack on their Norn Iron, their culture and identity. Within political unionism we only see the acceptance of democratic decisions if it suits – otherwise it’s undemocratic and an attack on them! As demographics continue to alter, political unionism may start getting used to the notion that the minority will one day be the majority and will be in contention to take top positions in the government of the North! Oul Craig would be turning in his grave – long gone are the days of the “Protestant state for a Protestant people.”

  8. Keith Haughian February 18, 2015 at 8:39 pm #

    Upper bann is one area that SF will hopefully gain an extra seat.

  9. neill February 19, 2015 at 9:10 am #

    So if the Dup are nine seats ahead the Dup need to lose 5 seats and SF need to gain 4 seats for there to be a tie now lets look at this closely:

    The 4 Belfast constituencies cant see them picking up any new seats here at all.

    North South and East Antrim no chance of adding to the seats they have already.

    The same for East Londonderry Mid Ulster FST Lagan Valley North Down Strangford.

    So that leaves us Upper Bann Newry South Armagh Foyle West Tyrone and South Down

    Lets start with South Down there is chance for them here with John Mcallister running against his old party equally the SDLP are also in for a shout for the final seat

    Newry South Armagh don’t see any change there either they have three safe seats and all the other elected parties have just about safe quotas

    West Tyrone hard to see SF gaining another seat here if so it will be at the expense of the SDLP

    Foyle it is possible for a SF third seat however I would say that was a long shot

    Upper Bann good chance of a second here but at the expense of the SDLP

    So with the best will in the world on a really good day I can only see SF gaining three seats and everything would have to go with them unlikely though in my opinion

  10. TheHist February 19, 2015 at 10:43 am #

    So are you admitting Neill – there is a slight possibility? I notice you do not delve into any potential DUP loses!

    As elections often show us, what we deem as impossible can be made possible. Who would have thought 20 years ago the UUP and SDLP being esclipsed by the DUP and Sinn Fein? Personally I cannot see the DUP maintain their assembly support as things stand (2014 council elections indicated a decline in support) – so there is a likelihood they will lose seats particularly as the Unionist vote continues to be fragmented. DUP lost 15 council seats in 2014 – was this to be expected or a just a “very bad day” for them?

    I’ve recently listened to Paul Girvan, Nelson McCausland et al and often wonder what damage their views and opinions will have on the Unionist electorate support for the DUP. Is the DUP’s backward looking politics / social views going to resonate with the Unionist electorate? On Nolan last night Girvan was so tongue tied on a number of occasions, he struggled to even support party policy. But what’s the alternative for unionists, the dinosaur politics of Jim Allister and the TUV or the mind changing politics of Mike Nesbitt and the UUP …. Or to not bother voting!

    I know quite a few DUP supporters who have stated they would never vote for the party again for a variety of issues – obviously this isn’t representative of the whole Unionist community but an indicator of dissatisfaction at various levels!

    • neill February 19, 2015 at 11:01 am #

      Guess what the Hist its an election anything could happen Sf could gain and lose seats as well as the Dup however its hard to see SF beating the Dup look at the figures yourself you never know you might come to the same conclusion yourself….

      • TheHist February 19, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

        I agree Neill, it’s an election – anything can happen, as stated. So maybe Neill on this basis, Martin McGuinness could end up First Minister after all.

  11. Dr Michael Hfuhruhurr February 19, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

    Demographics dear boy……. Consider the facts below. According to the 2011 Census….

    Assuming that Catholics vote Nationalist and Protestants vote Unionist (As endlessly verified by tribal patterns). Also assuming that i do not want to offend our older readers.

    Plotting the figures below on a Graph shows an “X” of exponential increase of those from a Catholic background and an exponential decline of those from a Protestant background.

    There were 95,295 more Protestants over the age of 60 than Catholics.
    There were 73,548 more Catholics under the age of 40 than Protestants
    There were 30,586 more Catholics of baby making ages 20 to 39 than Protestants
    Protestants over 60 outnumber Catholics by 2:1
    There are over 40,000 more Catholic children in NI schools than Protestant
    Catholics tend to have larger families and stay at Universities here in Ireland
    Protestants tend to have smaller families and tend to leave NI for University in Britain and very rarely return.
    Protestants have a higher mortality rate for what ever reason (even i don’t know why)

    The majority of those who tend to vote are over 40, younger people tend to be less inclined to vote (greater apathy in the youth).This is reflective of the obscure voting patterns in the north as Catholics are in majority under 40 and Protestants are in majority over 40.

    Sadly as the Protestant population shuffle of this mortal coil to touch the face of God, there are fewer Protestants to replace them. So since 2011 that 95,295 (24,697 over the age of 80, 70,598 between ages of 60 to 79) could well have been reduced to maybe half as we stand currently. Consider that the 2010 Westminster elections the combined Unionist vote was 344,655 and the combined Nationalist was 286,454. Assuming that normal mortality rates occur in the over 80’s and over 60’s then we can conclude that Unionism will have somewhere around 40,000 less in their voting base. Add this reduction to the increase in Catholics voting then its game over.

    The unionist community are heading for a severe shock in the next couple of election cycles. Peter Robinson knows this as do most of the DUP/UUP but they are more concerned with their careers than their electorate. Perhaps its intentional for unionism to let this place explode in a loyalist hyssyfit, just to scare off anyone dare thinking voting for unity. After all NI was founded on the threat and use of violence and shall remain in place on the threat and use of violence!

  12. neill February 19, 2015 at 1:45 pm #

    By your reasoning every catholic born is going to be a Nationalist or Republican an intriguing if flawed belief but if it makes you happy

    • Jude Collins February 19, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

      Not sure if you’re talking to me (you talkin’ to me?) but in case you are, no, I don’t belive every Catholic will be nationalist/republican. But the overwhelming majority of them will be. Just as the overwhelming majority of Protestants will be unionists/loyalists.

  13. Dr Michael Hfuhruhurr February 19, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

    At what point will unionists pull the head out of the sand?

    Of course not every Catholic is Nationalist/Republican or every Protestant Unionist/Loyalist. Sadly we have had over 90 years of data that suggest that tribal patterns exist. The people who seem to think that there are an abundance of Castle Catholics are refusing to acknowledge that there are a similar amount of Castle Protestants.

    For the union to remain there are factors that are just too far fetched to comprehend.

    1 – it would require Catholics to abandon their cultural heritage and Identity and somehow embrace a British identity (Not a Northern Ireland Identity) as this statelet can only ever be supported on generous hand-outs from the lovely citizens of South England. Therefore, it’s the tax paying English that will decide if we are in or not!

    2 – Linked to above, It would require a rebalance in the UK whereby British citizens would regard the North as a key and intrinsic part of the UK. One in which they are happy to pay over the odds in taxes to maintain.

    3 – It would require the UK to build industry and jobs here, proper ones and not low paying call centre jobs or civil service jobs. I.e. it would have to make citizens better off in being part of the Union than an all Ireland. On current trends, this will never happen and people are clearly better off in the South on every measurable level..

    4 – It would require a baby boom in the over 60’s Protestant community

    5 – It would require a decline in the Catholic background birth rate which arguably has not happened since the formation of this statelet (Census drops of 1981 confirmed by unwillingness of those from the Catholic background to be identified due to security concerns)

    6 – Would require an unwillingness of people from the south to abandon family and cultural heratige and accept foreign control over their land.

    7 – Would require the southern economy to be 100 times worse than its worse position of 2009. Even when the economy was bad, it was still far superior to the North and Irish citizens would still gladly accept higher taxes to accommodate re-integration.

    8 – The Orange Order would have to disappear completely and apologise to the Catholic citizens of the North.

    Some how I don’t think any of the above will ever happen.

    • neill February 19, 2015 at 7:20 pm #

      Dr Michael I think you are getting a trifle excited pop off to bed and sleep it off you will be fine in the morning

  14. Dr Michael Hfuhruhurr February 20, 2015 at 9:51 am #

    Ok then please explain me the long term strategy for retaing the Union. I am all ears. Tell me what is going to influence middle of the road Catholics to embrace the union and disregard their heratige and identity.

    Do you always resort to unionist type and play the man when you have no reasoned argument?

    You have the floor sir. Please go ahead, I am all ears.